Clerk Dave Kunko holds the newly changed Chaves County marriage certificates his office received Thursday. Changes were made to remove references to “man and wife” and replace them with “spouse” after the state Supreme Court decided gay marriage was constitutional last week. (Jill McLaughlin Photo)
The Chaves County Clerk’s office has only sold two marriage certificates to gay couples since last week’s state Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for same-sex marriages in the state.
“I didn’t think Chaves County was going to be a real big place to sell those,” said Clerk Dave Kunko.
Both certificates—acquired by two men and two women—were sold Dec. 19, the day the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from getting marriage licenses.
Following the ruling, the county was obligated to reprint its licenses. The new licenses were received Thursday.
“Instead of writing bride and groom on the license, it will just say ‘spouse’ and ‘spouse,’” Kunko said.
On the application, the software company the county uses removed references to “male” and “female” and replaced the words with “applicant.”
Kunko said his office had received some inquiries since the ruling. He said the court decision has helped give state clerks direction, and he hadn’t received any negative or positive feedback from the community.
“I think it has helped give us all the direction we needed, so we were all doing the same thing,” Kunko said. “It doesn’t look good for our state if we’re not doing the same thing.”
The clerk is sworn to uphold the state’s constitution and laws, Kunko said.
“Since the (state) Supreme Court feels this is in conflict to the constitution, they decided we needed to start doing it right away. We felt like we had to do it,” he said.
Kunko was one of 31 New Mexico county clerks to intervene in the petition to the high court, asking for it to consider issuing a clarification of state law in October. At the time, several clerks had either been court-ordered to begin issuing the licenses, or had made a determination to sell them.
Some 1,400 same-sex couples had already been issued licenses in the state before the ruling.
Roosevelt County Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins resigned Dec. 20, the day after the court’s decision. Commissioner Bill Cathey said the two made it clear they would quit “rather than be associated with that,” he told The Associated Press.
Roosevelt, that has its county seat in Portales, a town of some 12,000, was expected to meet this week to find a replacement.
Lea County Clerk Pat Chappelle reported no marriage licenses had been issued to gay couples from her office since the ruling, but she had received a few phone calls, according to The Associated Press.
State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Dist. 1, has filed joint resolution Dec. 20, proposing an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution to define the right of marriage as a union only between one man and one woman.
If the Legislature passes the Joint Resolution 6, which would then be put forward for a vote in the November general election, the new section would read: “Marriage, which is a right, in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.”
State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Dist. 32, of Roswell, said the amendment would allow people a chance to voice their opinion on the matter.
“The best way to represent the people is to give them a vote and by introducing a constitutional amendment on this issue people will have a chance to voice their opinion during the 2014 election,” Pirtle said.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me wondering what I was going to do, or what was the Legislature going to do, about the decision,” Pirtle said. “There’s been quite a bit of opposition about the ruling that came down from Supreme Court of New Mexico. That’s what I’ve been hearing from constituents and people in the area.”