SANTA FE (AP) — As hundreds of gay and lesbian couples flock to courthouses around New Mexico to get married, advocates are hopeful the state’s highest court will soon step in to resolve lingering legal questions and provide a uniform statewide policy on gay marriage.
For now, six of the state’s 33 counties are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and a number of other clerks say they’re waiting for a court order before they take similar steps.
What remains uncertain is when a legal challenge over same-sex marriage reaches the five-member Supreme Court.
In the meantime, recently married couples aren’t caught in legal limbo, according to Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, a professor of family law at the University of New Mexico.
She said Wednesday the marriages are legally sound, even if the state Supreme Court were to override recent district judge’s rulings that ordered clerks to issue licenses.
“In New Mexico, the legal policy is marriages are presumed valid until a court declares them invalid (on an individual basis),” said Sedillo Lopez.
That didn’t happen in 2004 when the Sandoval County clerk issued more than 60 marriage licenses to same-sex couples before stopping when then Attorney General Patricia Madrid objected. Six years later, a state district judge in Santa Fe ruled that a marriage license issued in Sandoval County to two women was valid and subject to divorce.
“Folks who have received marriage licenses from county clerks and have gotten married with those licenses are just as married as anyone else,” said Egolf, a lawyer who represented two Santa Fe men in a lawsuit that led to a court order directing county officials to issue them a marriage license.