FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Clerk said she will wait to hear from a judge before issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Six New Mexico counties have started, or will soon start, issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Doña Ana County Clerk announced Aug. 21 he was issuing them, and clerks in Valencia and San Miguel counties said Tuesday they will do the same. Taos County has announced that it will start issuing the licenses Wednesday.
Clerk's offices in Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties were ordered by district judges to issue the marriage licenses. Bernalillo District Judge Alan Malott ruled Monday that preventing same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses was "unconstitutional."
Recently, several same-sex couples have asked San Juan County to consider issuing the licenses, said San Juan County Clerk Debbie Holmes. She said it should not be her decision whether or not to bring gay marriage to the area.
San Juan County has never issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Holmes said she has been advised by the county's legal department not to issue them.
"I'm waiting for someone to sue me, and that's certainly something they can do," she said. "I feel like I need to follow the law as I've been told how to do it."
Holmes said her staff has indicated that at least one same-sex couple "mentioned" suing the county on Monday because the clerk's office didn't give the couple a marriage license.
Holmes said she is surprised that county clerks appear to be at the forefront of bringing gay marriage to the state.
"I don't understand why it's been left up to the clerks," she said. "We're at the forefront because we issue the license, but, to me, the law has to be changed to say if we do issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples or if we don't, rather than each of us going off and making the decision on our own."
Though no couples have brought a lawsuit against Holmes, two Farmington couples sued the Bernalillo County clerk and the state of New Mexico in June after they were denied marriage licenses in Bernalillo.
Cecilia Taulbee and Monica Leaming and A.D. Joplin and Greg Gomez joined three other same-sex couples in the lawsuit. The couples were all denied marriage licenses by the Bernalillo County clerk.
Leaming said she and Taulbee are planning a trip to Bernalillo to get a married but are still pushing forward with their lawsuit in hopes of creating a statewide change.
Leaming said she feels the legal opinion issued in district court in Bernalillo could help spur statewide change.
"It's great," Leaming said of the recent gay marriages. "But we're interested in a statewide solution."
Peter Simonson, the executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the ACLU's position is that Malott's decision on Tuesday, which stopped the Bernalillo and Santa Fe clerk's from denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples, should be applied to clerks throughout the state.
Simonson said he disagreed with State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, who said in a prepared statement that district court judges were making laws instead of abiding by them.
"A judge did not write law," Simonson said of Monday's ruling. "A judge ruled on the constitutionality of how county clerks were executing a state law."
Sharer defended his statement and said the way gay marriage laws are being changed is "appalling."
"I am trying to do something," he said. "If this is allowed to stand, there is no reason for the Legislature of the Executive even to exist. It's much, much bigger than marriage. This is a total destruction of the rule of law, and even the ACLU should fear this method."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.