Friday, February 20, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back

The New Mexico Attorney General has shut down gay marriages in Sandoval county. That was quick. It also seems - although I am not a lawyer - specious.
In Sheriff John Paul Trujillo's hand was the attorney general's advisory letter, which stated that "until the laws are changed through the legislative process or declared unconstitutional by the judicial process, the statutes limit marriage in New Mexico to a man and a woman."
So how come the Sandoval county clerk - who, incidentally, is a Republican, and the Attorney General is a Democrat - didn't know that? Because the definition of marriage in Section 40-1-1 of the New Mexico statutes doesn't specify genders at all. "Marriage is contemplated by the law as a civil contract, for which the consent of the contracting parties, capable in law of contracting, is essential." The sections describing who may and may not be married, and how marriages must be performed (40-1-2 to 40-1-17), don't specify genders either. The Attorney General's justification is section 40-1-18, which is a copy of the form couples need to fill out at the courthouse. It includes references to "male applicant" and "female applicant."
Sandoval County clerks reported that the vast majority of applicants were lesbians, including many with children. [...]

With the sheriff beside her, chief deputy clerk Susan Utegg-Pedersen told several waiting couples that the office was closing early because of the attorney general's letter.

Several persons shouted back, including two newlywed men desperately trying to file their completed license.

"We've already been married and now you're not going to record it!" Ron Hay, 52, a water utility operations manager from Belen, N.M., told the chief deputy clerk. He married his live-in partner of more than 18 years, Rick Lawyer, 48, a mental health therapist.
Eighteen years together, and not deserving of the rights and recognition that Britney Spears got herself as a joke.