Saturday, September 21, 2013

No Profiles in Courage in New Mexico Over Marriage Equality

Elected Officials in the Only State With No Law Defining Marriage Go Into Full Retreat

It came as a complete surprise that the state of New Mexico neither allows or rejects same sex marriage.  Really, it turns out there is one state of the union that hasn’t defined the issue.  Naturally this presents all sorts of confusions.

For years, state legislators have tried to settle the debate, with conservative Republicans introducing bills to describe marriage as a union between a man and a woman and liberal Democrats stalling those efforts or proposing bills of their own without gender-specific restrictions. None ever succeeded.

That has left New Mexico as the only state in the country that has no statute or constitutional amendment explicitly barring same-sex couples from marrying, but also no law saying they can. Since March, same-sex couples in three cities — Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Los Alamos — have filed lawsuits in an effort to get a clear ruling on the issue.

So in New Mexico it appears that it is up to county clerks to issue or not issue marriage licenses to whomever they please.  And here is what some please.

The first among them, Lynn Ellins of Doña Ana County — where Governor Martinez began her political career — said he was tired of waiting when, on Aug. 21, he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples from his office in Las Cruces, an increasingly liberal city in the largely conservative southern part of the state. Five other county clerks followed, though not until a court order gave them justification and permission, a move that also served to limit the legal options available to stop them.

Ok, so in New Mexico the politicians have to take a stand. 

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, has kept a dispassionate distance, affirming her personal opposition tosame-sex marriage but saying the decision should be left to voters. In June, Gary King, the state’s attorney general and a Democrat, punted, telling reporters he was not going to take a public stance on the issue. More recently, he has said he would not challenge any county clerk who decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Or maybe they don’t.  Political cowardice no knows party boundaries.  In New Mexico conscience doth not make cowards of them all, fear of losing elections makes cowards of a bunch of them elected officials.

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