Santa Fe Mayor Says Gay Marriage Legal in New Mexico, Encourages County Clerks to Issue Licenses

Santa Fe's Mayor David Coss is declaring same-sex marriage legal in New Mexico in an opinion prepared for his City Council, and urging County Clerks to issue licenses:

CossMayor David Coss and Councilor Patti Bushee announced today that they are sponsoring a Resolution expressing support for gay marriage in New Mexico and encouraging County Clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Resolution will be introduced at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, March 27.

Said Coss: “Santa Fe is a city of respect, acceptance, and diversity that embraces all of our residents. I sponsored this resolution because all loving, committed couples should have the right to marry regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Added Bushee: "It is disheartening to me to be creating laws for my community for 19 years and not be treated equally in the eyes of New Mexico law. We are the last group allowed to be legally discriminated against. This is a civil rights issue–it's time for Santa Fe to lead the way."

Said Geno Zamora, City Attorney: “Marriage law in New Mexico is gender-neutral and does not define marriage as between a man and a woman. New Mexico already recognizes valid marriages performed in other states between same-sex couples; it would violate our state’s constitution to deny equal rights in our own families.”

NewmexicoThe press release continues:

In a written opinion, dated March 19, 2013, City Attorney Geno Zamora discusses the fact that New Mexico’s statutory definition of marriage is gender-neutral and does not define marriage as between a man and a woman. Nor does New Mexico law prohibit same-sex marriage.Therefore, same-sex couples are capable of contracting within the law and capable of marrying in the State of New Mexico.

City Attorney Zamora’s memo references nine states and the District of Columbia, which all issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Another group of states constitutionally or statutorily defines marriage as between a man and a woman. New Mexico law does not speak directly to same-sex marriage.

Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed adds:

Geraldine Salazar, the Santa Fe County clerk, told BuzzFeed that she personally supports allowing same-sex couples to marry but does not believe she has the authority to issue such licenses at this time.

"He's the city attorney. I have a county attorney who I seek legal counsel from. In addition to that, the city attorney is not the attorney general. I, as a county clerk, do not have the authority in my eyes and in my interpretation and in my counsel. In my mindful process of this whole thing, I don't have the authority — and why should I do it for a few hours when really we should have solid laws benefiting all citizens of the state of New Mexico?" she noted.

As for New Mexico's attorney general, Gary King, his spokesman said Tuesday that he has not yet announced any public view on the question.

"AG King has not had an opportunity to weigh-in on the specific question of whether same sex marriages are legal under New Mexico law. It is likely, however, that we will soon receive a request for a formal Opinion on the issue," King's communications director, Phil Sisneros, told BuzzFeed Tuesday afternoon. Sisneros added that the city attorney's opinion "does not carry the force of law, although it is obviously what the city's official legal position is on the issue."


  1. Thomas says

    Wow. Having a gender neutral law on the books? That is awesome! I give a lot of credit to the mayor for doing this and taking advantage of the legal situation.

    And I know this is off point, but this guy totally looks to me like Timon from Lion King.

  2. Jay says

    Actually, Ben…I get what you are trying to say but…

    While Gavin Newsom went beyond his authority as the executive. Proposition 22 was on the books restricting marriage between individuals of opposite sexes. Whether Prop 22 was legal/constitutional or not is beside the point. Newsom could not agree with it but he authorized marriage in violation of the law without having it vetted in court. Newsom was both an advocate and a scoundrel for that. As a gay man, I’m glad he did it…it was a very exciting time and I was so happy to have been part of that moment in San Francisco. But, constitutionally/legally, he shouldn’t have done it. Can an executive go ahead and arrest an abortion provider? Technically no, but what if the executive thinks not being able to arrest abortion providers is a wrong?

    So…it isn’t Cross’s Gavin Newsom moment. This is a David Cross moment! He sees gender neutral language. He sees no law on the books restricting who should get marriage licenses. He sees no reason to NOT issue marriage licenses. If there is a battle, the battle will be with either the county attorney or with the AG. He has to have a county clerk willing to work with him and risk the consequences of disobeying the country attorney and the AG (if either of them say no). Otherwise, Cross’s activism is awesome but will be limited.

  3. MiddleoftheRoader says

    The most significant legal point is that if New Mexico recognizes same-sex marriages from other states, does it makes sense — and more important, it is legal under the state law — for New Mexico to allow its own citizens to get married in New Mexico? If two same-sex New Mexicans can go to Washington State or Washington DC and get married and come back to New Mexico and be recognized as married, then how can they not be able to get married in New Mexico?

    This issue has come up before in places like New York and Maryland. Those states first recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages as legal, but the state court said that didn’t mean that New Yorkers or Marylanders could get married in their home states. That was because the New York and Maryland marriage laws were not gender-neutral, so the state legislatures had to change the marriage laws to allow their citizens to get married within the state. BUT if the New Mexico marriage law is really gender-neutral, then it’s an excellent argument that New Mexico has to allow in-state same-sex marriages if it is going to recognize the validity of out-of-state same-sex marriages.


  4. Dback says

    Very clever. I was simultaneously thrilled and had an “Oh no” moment, as I was one of the 2004 “winter of love” couples that got married at SF’s City Hall, only to have it invalidated later on. And the backlash from this not only in California but also Oregon (since Multnomah County got a little ahead of the curve) resulted in ballot measures restricting same-sex marriage constitutionally, which of course is now being hashed out in the courts. I feel better knowing that no one can accuse New Mexico (specifically Santa Fe) of trying to do an “end run” around its constitution.

    Now with Nevada slowly moving towards marriage equality, if California flips (as I expect it will), does that put Arizona in a “squeeze play?” Colorado’s forging ahead with civil unions; it’s a good time to be gay in the Western United States!

  5. Tony C says

    Arizona is within the 9th circuit, so any precedent set in the CA case should apply to a similar law suit and laws in AZ.

    Former NM Republicon AG opined in 2004 when Sandoval co clerk issued marriage licenses that NM law did not allow for SSM and nullified the licenses that had been granted. NM now has a democrat AG who has opined that put of state marriages are “probably” legal in NM but conceded that this opinion has never been confirmed by any NM court. When the gov returns from Rome, she’ll probably request his opinion which I imagine will be about the same. She will never give his opinion the force of the executive office,

  6. Marco Lama says

    It will happen folks -sooner the better. Fortunately the AG’s Highest Ranking Attorney, his Asst. just happens to be a very bright community involved gay men who has been in a long term relationship for many years. He is well liked all over the city by everyone might want to be married to his partner some day. Proud of Albert Lama

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