Same-Sex Couples Line Up In Sandoval County To Get Married

From the Associated Press (don’t miss the part about the pink newlywed bags)№

BERNALILLO, N.M. — Gay and lesbian couples lined up Friday outside the courthouse to tie the knot after the county clerk said she would grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

At least 15 couples had been granted licenses by late morning, the Sandoval County clerk’s office said. A sign-up list had grown to 20 couples, with some waiting in line for applications in the hall outside the clerk’s office in this sleepy New Mexico town.

Among the first to get their license were two women who got married in a brief ceremony in front of the courthouse.

“When we heard the news this morning, we knew we couldn’t wait. We had to come down here,” Jenifer Albright said after she and Anne Schultz, 34, both of Albuquerque, exchanged vows in front of the courthouse.

James Walker and Michael Palmer took extended lunch breaks from work for a moment they said they’d waited 26 years for. The men were married in Toronto last year, but that didn’t give them rights in the United States.

Walker said a marriage certificate from Sandoval County “would give us a lot of rights and benefits that have been denied us as a couple, including the rights associated with property ownership and the rights associated with medical decisions.”

Bernalillo is a few miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city.

Victoria Dunlap, the county’s clerk, said Thursday that she was unaware of any laws prohibiting licenses from being issued for same-sex couples.

“This has nothing to do with politics or morals,” she told the Albuquerque Journal. “If there are no legal grounds that say this should be prohibited, I can’t withhold it . . . This office won’t say no until shown it’s not permissible.”

She said she made the decision after asking for an opinion from David Mathews, the county’s attorney, who said New Mexico law is unclear on the issue.

Melinda Foster, a clerk’s administrative assistant, said people have been calling from across New Mexico, interested in filing. Dunlap was not immeditately available for comment Friday.

To get an application, would-be married couples had to show up with a photo ID, social security card and $25 to receive an application. In getting their stamped licenses, they were handed pink “newlywed bags” with coupons and other items.

Meanwhile, two state senators — one Democrat and one Republican — asked for an opinion Friday from state Attorney General Patricia Madrid. A spokeswoman for Madrid said an opinion could be issued next week.

Madrid “does realize that this is of great public interest and so has asked her staff to address this as thoroughly and promptly as possible,” spokeswoman Sam Thompson said.

Wow! NewMexiKen bets his Bernalillo T-shirt is worth something on eBay now!