Santa Fe mayor, council member urge marriage licenses for same-sex couples

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Councilor Patti Bushee. - PHOTO: Provided

The New Mexico Legislature left town without acting on a constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage, so Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and a city council member are encouraging county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples anyway. And they insist it is legal to do so.

Coss and Councilor Patti Bushee say they will introduce a resolution March 27 "recognizing" that same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico.

In a news release, they cited recent polls showing support for same-sex marriage among Americans is at an all-time high.

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

Bushee, who is a lesbian, called it a civil rights issue.

"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," she said in a statement. "We are the last group allowed to be legally discriminated against."

Bushee and Coss also released a memo from City Attorney Geno Zamara, who said same-sex marriage is legal because state law defining marriage is gender-neutral and lacks any prohibition on same-sex marriage.

Zamora said the state already recognizes same-sex marriages from other states and the New Mexico Constitution requires equal treatment on the basis of sex.

Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for Attorney General Gary King, said his office has not weighed in on the specific question of whether same sex-marriage is legal, and "to my knowledge, there has not been a formal request for an AG's Opinion."

But ACLU of New Mexico executive director Peter Simonson affirmed the mayor and councilor's position: Committed, loving same-sex couples deserve the same dignity and respect as opposite-sex couples, and this truth is already reflected in our current state laws. We believe that the current New Mexico State Constitution and the state marriage statute provide same-sex couples the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. However, the right of all New Mexicans to marry should be clear and explicit. The courts will need to provide some definitive guidance on this matter."

Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment on whether her office would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.