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NM County Clerk Who Spearheaded Marriage Equality Charge Donates Leftover Funds to Protect It

In late August, New Mexico's Doña Ana County made history when it began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. County Clerk Lynn Ellins was leading the charge, which engaged other counties until the the New Mexico Supreme Court finally decided the matter.

EllinsIn September, Ellins began raising private donations to help the county cover the cost of its legal fees and the fundraising effort was so successful that there was more cash to spare.

Ellins is now donating that money to a New Mexico group established to protect equal marriage rights, the Las Cruces Sun reports:

Ellins had raised private donations -- via a website and at his county office -- to pay for his defense in a civil lawsuit brought by opponents of his controversial August decision to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

After paying his legal bill, Ellins estimated a few thousand dollars are leftover. And he said he's giving that money to a campaign called New Mexico Unites for Marriage Equality.

"It's a nonprofit organization that was established the last year to basically protect the same-gender marriage rights," Ellins said.

Ellins' legal expenses tied to the state district court lawsuit totaled nearly $31,759, according to a Doña Ana County news release.


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NM Gov. Susana Martinez Won't Legislate Against Gay Marriage: 'It's the Law of the Land'

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez says she won't support or seek an amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, saying the issue is settled, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports:

MartinezMartinez said several times last summer — when several county clerks across the state began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — that she believed state voters should decide the issue by way of a ballot question on whether to amend the state constitution.

“I think what I said before was that yes, the people should have decided on it, but the Supreme Court has decided,” the governor said Monday when asked by a reporter about the issue. “And it’s now the law of the land.”

Asked whether that meant she wouldn’t push for the Legislature to pass a measure like Sen. Bill Sharer’s Senate Joint Resolution 6, Martinez responded, “It’s the law of the land. The Supreme Court has spoken.”


Coalition For Navajo Equality Hopes To Overturn Tribal Anti-Gay Marriage Legislation

The Navajo Nation may soon see a review of its tribal ban on gay marriage, spurred on by the Coalition for Navajo Equality. The original legislation, which banned same-sex marriages in 2005, likely passed in part because of the climate of the federal government at the time, and limited state support for same-sex couples; now, many Navajo people would like to see that law overturned, following in the footsteps of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma. 

NavajonationAl Jazeera reports:

Alray Nelson, founder of the Coalition for Navajo Equality, says he wants the Navajo Nation (flag at right) to respect same-sex relationships, just like two of the states that surround its territory — New Mexico, where gay marriage was legalized this month, and Utah, where it was recently ruled legal but faces a mounting appeal.

“There’s no organized faction against this, like in the fight (for) Proposition 8 in California,” said Nelson, 27, whose organization is seeking to make tribal legislators review a 2005 tribal ban on gay marriage early next year.

Opposition to the review may not be organized, but it exists.

Deswood Tome, a special adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, told Al Jazeera that although Navajo respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Navajo, marriage is traditionally between a man and woman.

Tome referred to a traditional phrase in the Navajo language that “means that ‘a man and woman come together.’ That's our core belief as Navajo people ... I’ve never heard of a man and man.”

OFFICIAL.PHOTOGRAPH.President.Shelly-250x300President Shelly (right), it turns out, both agreed and disagreed with Tome's interpretation. While the tradition has been marriage between one man and one woman, Shelly stated that his personal belief is one of equal opportunity for marriage, gay or straight. Other tribal nations agree and fear that state and federal influences (such as George W. Bush's 2004 defense of DOMA) have caused dissent within their tribes.

In October two gay men became the third same-sex couple to be officially married by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. Their territory is surrounded by Oklahoma, where gay marriage remains illegal and faces much opposition. 

After their marriage, a high-level official called a tribal meeting to discuss measures to block such unions, said Cheyenne and Arapaho Lt. Gov. Amber Bighorse-Suitor. 

“I was surprised when this broke that there was any opposition in the tribe. The attitude in Oklahoma seems to have infiltrated some of our tribal attitudes,” she said. 

The same-sex marriage debate seems to represent just one facet of an ever-shifting dynamic between states, tribal nations, and the federal government. Influences both positive (Utah and New Mexico's marriage decisions) and negative (Oklahoma's largely anti-gay stance) have traversed national borders.  

Hopefully the Navajo Nation will review the 2005 ban and decide, like the other tribal governments, to allow same-sex marriage. Good luck to the Coalition for Navajo Equality!


New Mexico County Clerks Quit Over Gay Marriage

Albuquerque Gay Marriage

New Mexico this week legalized gay marriage, and as expected not everyone is happy about that. Albuquerque County Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins announced their resignations yesterday morning, declining to comment on their reasoning. County commissioners confirmed, however, that it was in protest of the legalization of gay marriage, Commissioner Bill Cathey claiming that the two said they'd rather "resign than be associated with that."

The county is already working to hire their replacements.


New Mexico Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Decision: An Analysis

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BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

New Mexico became the 17th marriage equality state today when the state's supreme court declared marriage discrimination unconstitutional. It was a unanimous ruling and one that was based on legal concepts with which we should all be familiar: equal protection, intermediate scrutiny, state interests, and "responsible procreation".

NMFLAGRegular readers of Towleroad's law column already know the basics: The constitution--in this case, a state constitution--guarantees equal protection of the law. Denying marriage licenses to certain individuals simply because of their sex or sexual orientation is unequal treatment that the state has to justify. Because the LGBT community has long been a victim of institutionalized and insidious discrimination, the state has a high burden to meet, a burden we call "intermediate scrutiny." The supposed justification that restricting marriage to opposite sex couples prevents accidental children out of wedlock is no justification for discrimination because marriage has never had anything to do with raising children. Because the state cannot meets its burden, the discrimination is unconstitutional. Gays can marry.

It is remarkable that this legal narrative has become so simple, so obvious, so matter-of-fact that we can summarize it in a paragraph and move on. Ten years ago, it was a theory a few of us deeply believed in. But it has become as airtight a legal doctrine as any I know. Today's decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court reinforces that view. It also highlights the impact the Supreme Court's recent DOMA decision (Windsor v. United States) will have on the next generation of marriage cases.

Follow me AFTER THE JUMP for a more detailed analysis.

Continue reading "New Mexico Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Decision: An Analysis" »


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