N.M. county to allow gay marriage next week

SANTA FE, N.M. — A southwestern New Mexico county plans next week to start issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Grant County Clerk Robert Zamarripa said his office will begin next Monday to provide marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

He said his office will comply with a district judge’s ruling on Tuesday in a lawsuit brought by a lesbian couple.

In a separate case, the Los Alamos County clerk said she won’t issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and will go to court to defend her decision.

Clerk Sharon Stover made the announcement in response to a judge’s order last week that she grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Stover wants the lawsuit put on hold until the gay marriage issue is resolved by the state Supreme Court.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

A seventh New Mexico county is poised to decide whether to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover has said she will announce Tuesday how her office will respond to a judge’s order that she issue licenses to gay and lesbian couples or appear in court.

Six counties in the past two weeks have started granting licenses to same-sex couples, with three of them taking that action to comply with court rulings.

Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins led the way on the gay marriage issue Aug. 21 by deciding independently to allow marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples. A group of Republican legislators has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Ellins.

A judge in Albuquerque ruled last week in a separate case that it’s unconstitutional to prohibit gay marriage in New Mexico. However, the ruling doesn’t apply to all 33 counties.

A group representing county clerks statewide plans to appeal the judge’s decision to the state Supreme Court to resolve lingering questions of whether gay marriage is legal in New Mexico.

State law doesn’t explicitly authorize or prohibit same-sex couples to be married. However, state statutes include a marriage license application that has sections for male and female applicants, and there are references in law to “husband” and “wife.” County clerks historically have relied on those provisions in law in denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

A same-sex couple from Los Alamos County, Janet Newton and Maria Thibodeau, filed a lawsuit last week after being denied a marriage license. District Judge Sheri Raphaelson ordered the clerk to issue the couple a marriage license or appear in court Wednesday to explain why that shouldn’t happen.

A lawsuit over gay marriage also is pending in Sandoval County. A lesbian couple from Placitas last week asked a district court to force Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni to issue them a marriage license. There’s been no ruling by a judge or hearing scheduled in the case as of Tuesday.

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