Santa Fe officials publicly declare same-sex marriage legal

NM county clerks skeptical

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - On Tuesday, Santa Fe officials publicly announced same-sex marriage in New Mexico is legal.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, City Attorney Geno Zamora and Councilor Patti Bushee announced their support for gay marriage and recommended that city clerks begin issuing marriage licenses to couples, regardless of gender.

"New Mexico defines marriage as between two consenting, contracting parties, and is silent in regard to gender," Zamora told ABC-7.

The New Mexico constitution does not specify that marriage must be between a man and a woman. It also does not specifically prohibit same-sex marriage.

How officials interpret that law is being debated across the state.

"It's the legal opinion of the Santa Fe city attorney's office that yes, county clerks today can issue marriage license to same sex couples and that includes the county clerk of Dona Ana County," Zamora said.

Dona Ana County clerk Lynn Ellins told ABC-7 he won't do that just yet.

"There is another provision in the marital statute that requires the male applicant to submit certain information and the female applicant to supply certain information. Therefore, the specific requirement that a man and a woman supply information makes it very clear that the individuals contracting for the marriage are a man and a woman. That is my legal opinion," he said.

This isn't the first time state officials try to interpret the law this way.

In 2004, the Sandoval County clerk issued marriage licenses to 64 same-sex couples. Before the end of the day, then-Attorney General Patricia Madrid declared the license invalid and ordered the clerk to stop.

"I'd really like the current attorney general to revisit that opinion and see if we've moved along as a society and if there's a difference stance that needs to be taken," said state representative Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla).

Ellins asked McCamley to request an official opinion from current Attorney General Gary King.

If King agrees with Santa Fe officials, it would be a historical moment for New Mexico.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said an official opinion on the matter could take days or even months.

Until then, county clerks, including Ellins, said they will not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

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