One by one, counties in New Mexico began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples late last month. As of August 30, six counties—Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Doña Ana, San Miguel, Valencia and Taos—offer licenses as a result of court orders or voluntarily, bringing 56 percent of New Mexico’s population under
the aegis of marriage equality.
The decisions elicited both joy and confusion. Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have requested licenses. The first couple to receive a license was Liz Stefanics, a Santa Fe county commissioner who recently introduced a resolution urging the court to support marriage equality, and her partner Linda Siegle, a long time LGBT activist.
“After so many years of seeing these couples have their hopes raised, then dashed, it is so rewarding to see progress finally coming,” says Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, progressive advocacy group.
Officials in New Mexico’s other 27 counties remain unsure of what precedent is being set. On August 29, the state’s county clerks unanimously agreed to ask the state supreme court to rule whether the marriages are legal, and if marriage equality should apply to all counties. New Mexico is the only state that has no law explicitly legalizing or banning same-sex mar-riage—at least for now. “We want some direction. We think it’s important,” Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar told the Associated Press. It is unclear when the court will rule on the issue.
While any extension of basic civil rights is a good thing, LGBT advocates believe the “patchwork” approach is less than ideal. “The house divided created by marriage discrimination cannot stand. All couples should have the freedom to marry, and all marriages should be fully respected under the law, throughout our country,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and pres-ident of Freedom to Marry.
The organization is launching an online story center that advocates marriage equality through the stories of gay and lesbian couples. “By telling our stories and reaching out to the reachable, we can continue growing the majority for marriage and create the climate for the next wave of decision-makers—lawmakers, judges, and, in time, justices—to end this untenable and unfair patchwork of denial and secure the freedom to marry nationwide,” Wolfson said.