New Mexico is emerging as the latest front in the nationwide battle over equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Last week Lynn Ellins, the county clerk in Doña Ana County, unexpectedly began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the first time ever. New Mexico's attorney general indicated that he would not challenge the move because he believed prohibitions on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
At least two pastors from the city of Las Cruces immediately began conducting wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.
Just two days later, District Judge Sarah Singleton ordered the clerk in Santa Fe County -- seat of the state capital -- to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. County Clerk Geraldine Salazar complied.
And today, the state's largest county may be next. Details after the jump.
A district court hearing is scheduled to be held this afternoon in Bernalillo County, New Mexico's largest, that could result in that county being ordered to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. The Albuquerque Journal reports:
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver has readied up to 1,000 new gender-neutral marriage licenses in case District Judge Alan Malott issues a court ruling today supporting same-sex marriage, Oliver said Sunday.
Although a hearing scheduled at 3 p.m. before Malott in Albuquerque is ostensibly to consider related motions, Oliver said she's getting ready in case the judge issues a ruling supporting same-sex marriage.
The motion before Malott asks that a Santa Fe couple be allowed to join five other couples in a previously filed lawsuit challenging New Mexico's opposition to granting same-sex marriage licenses.
"We know there's a lot of folks paying attention to this issue and a lot of folks eagerly anticipating such a ruling (in support of same-sex marriage), and so we want to be ready go in as soon as possible," Oliver said.
"There's nothing to indicate that I'll wake up and there will be a favorable ruling, but given that all the plaintiffs and their attorneys will be in the room, I suppose it's possible that something might happen, and so that is what I am preparing for," she said.
In case of a ruling supporting same-sex marriage, Oliver said, then "I would anticipate there being a large number of individuals that will be wanting to take advantage, and I'm just making sure my staff is preparing to handle that."
If my math skills serve me correctly, the addition of Bernalillo County to the marriage equality column would mean that almost half of the state's population lives in a county where same-sex couples have equal marriage rights.
Of course, the craven opportunists at the National Organization for Marriage
Discrimination wasted no time capitalizing on the news last week, blasting out a frantic email in which NOM president Brian Brown decried the proceedings in New Mexico as "lawlessness" and a "marriage emergency."
As Jeremy Hooper points out, this is especially rich, given NOM's history of supporting town clerks in marriage equality states like New York who claim their anti-gay religious beliefs should give them a special right to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of state law.
Apparently, in NOMworld, violating the law is okay if you're trying to uphold an exclusionary definition of marriage, but very, very bad if you're allowing same-sex couples to marry. Hypocrisy much?
But I digress. Will New Mexico's largest county become the latest marriage equality jurisdiction in that state? We'll know later this afternoon.
Stay tuned, folks.