Santa Fe city leaders say there’s no legal reason same-sex couples can’t get married here.
Mayor David Coss and City Councilor Patti Bushee will ask the rest of the City Council to adopt a resolution making that declaration and urging county clerks across the state to immediately begin issuing marriage certificates for gay couples, the pair announced Tuesday.
“It’s time to push this issue,” Coss said at a press conference. “I’ve worked on immigrant rights, labor rights and human rights and on the rights of same-sex couples. I’ve seen the struggle in the Legislature. I’ve seen the hopes rise and the hopes be dashed.”
Coss said he wants the same rights for all his children, including a daughter who is gay.
“As a Dad, I’d just like to walk her down the aisle some day and I will never get to do that if we don’t move on these issues in Santa Fe,” he said. “Santa Fe is ready. New Mexico is ready, I know. Our country is ready to move on this.”
The resolution is based partly on a new opinion from the city attorney’s office that says, “New Mexico’s statutory definition of marriage is gender-neutral. Since New Mexico does not define marriage as between a man and a woman, and since New Mexico does not prohibit same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage is permitted in New Mexico.”
The official marriage contract in New Mexico is recorded by the county clerk, however, and both Coss and Bushee said the city is expecting a fight.
“I think you are going to see this appear before the New Mexico Supreme Court,” said Bushee, the longest serving member of the City Council and its only openly gay member. “It’s the forefront of civil rights. We are the last group that is allowed to legally to be discriminated against.”
Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar, who took office this year, said in an interview Tuesday that she has no intention of issuing same-sex marriage licences unless there’s a change in what is now an ambiguous state law. She learned about the city press conference Tuesday morning along with news reporters and did not attend the announcement.
“I would love to be able to issue marriage licenses (to same sex couples) but under the current law, I feel I’m not free and clear to do so. The Legislature creates the laws and the judges interpret the laws and I as a county clerk do not create or interpret laws,” she said. “And I feel that my oath of office does not allow me to act counter to the laws of New Mexico.”
In 2004, the Sandoval County clerk issued marriage licenses to 64 same-sex couples using the same argument, but the state attorney general ordered her to stop the practice and said the licenses were not valid.
Last week, Bushee announced a series of code amendments on gay rights. The city’s longest serving councilor said one proposal would codify a practice already in place that allows domestic partner insurance coverage for city employees and their families. Another would require any business on contract with the city to provide those benefits to its workers. A third would create a Human Rights Commission for the city, she said.