Group threatens lawsuit if New Mexico licenses aren't voided
March 03 2004 12:00 AM ET
A national conservative group has notified the Sandoval County, N.M., clerk of its intent to sue if she doesn't void same-sex marriage licenses issued in late February. The Alliance Defense Fund's local attorney, Paul Becht, notified county clerk Victoria Dunlap in a letter dated February 23. He said Dunlap's issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples "created serious harm" for the state and the couples. "It is now incumbent upon you to revoke the illegal licenses and to further notify all individuals who received same that they are, in fact, of no legal effect," Becht wrote. "Failure to take immediate action will result in legal action to obtain a court order declaring the licenses null and void."
The alliance recently filed a lawsuit against the mayor of San Francisco to stop same-sex marriages in that city, where thousands of couples have been wed in recent weeks. Sandoval County attorney David Mathews sent the letter to the state attorney general's office on Monday. "[Becht] is asking the county to do what it cannot do, and that is to revoke the licenses," county spokesman Gayland Bryant said. "That is going to require court action. It is a state issue and not a county issue."
Dunlap issued marriage certificates to 66 same-sex couples on February 20. Her office stopped issuing the licenses a few hours later when Attorney General Patricia Madrid declared them invalid. Madrid called for Dunlap to stop issuing the licenses and said the ones she had issued were illegal. Madrid did not advise the clerk on how to proceed with the "illegal" licenses. The clerk's office is in the process of recording all licenses issued and building a database with the names and addresses of those who received them. Dunlap said revoking the licenses is beyond her power. "I do not have the authority to make it null and void," Dunlap said Monday. "My understanding is, only the court has the authority to revoke a license. It's like a divorce."
Sam Thompson, Madrid's spokeswoman, said the attorney general has received Becht's letter but hasn't made any decisions. Dunlap said she won't do anything to revoke the licenses unless Madrid's
office tells her to do so. Until then, she said, she will continue to record and file the licenses issued.