N.M. county clerk stands up to commissioners in same-sex marriage battle

BY admin

February 25 2004 1:00 AM ET

A New Mexico county clerk who issued same-sex marriage licenses on Friday and recorded some of those marriages on Monday walked out of a county commission meeting at which she was publicly rebuked. "I'm not going to walk into an ambush," Victoria Dunlap said shortly before the meeting began Monday. However, though she had said she would not attend, she showed up just as it was getting under way. Commissioner Jack E. Thomas accused her of having flaunted her power and "trampled the emotions of everyone in Sandoval County."

Dunlap was praised and criticized with equal passion Monday after announcing last week that she would issue same-sex licenses. Sixty-six people received licenses before state attorney general Patricia Madrid released a letter Friday afternoon advising that the licenses were invalid. Despite last week's disappointment, many of the 30 or so people who addressed the commission Monday said they were hopeful Dunlap's actions would lead to a better understanding of the debate over gay marriage.

"We stand today in this nation on the brink of what could well be the greatest step forward in civil and human rights we have seen in several decades. This is the fight of my life," Lori Ellison said Monday as she choked back tears. Ellison spoke of her excitement as she waited in line Friday for something she had believed would be impossible in New Mexico. "We never thought we would have the choice or the option--oh, my God, this is something that couldn't happen--and then to have it snatched away so suddenly," she said.

A handful of those who addressed the commissioners Monday were opposed to same-sex marriage and criticized Dunlap. Lois Scharfglass of Albuquerque described Dunlap's action as "an egregiously
defiant act.... I urge county clerk Dunlap, for once in her career as county clerk, to do the right thing and resign from office." Commissioners have no disciplinary power over Dunlap, who is an elected official. They listened to the crowd Monday but took no action.

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