N.M. county clerk faces permanent restraining order for issuing marriage licenses

BY admin

May 26 2004 11:00 PM ET

The New Mexico attorney general's office has revised its complaint against Sandoval County clerk Victoria Dunlap over marriage licenses she issued earlier this year to same-sex couples. The new complaint seeks to have the restraining order against Dunlap made permanent until the laws are changed by the legislature or declared unconstitutional by the courts. It also asks the court to rule that Dunlap has no authority to declare state statutes unconstitutional and that such a decision must be determined on a statewide level. It also adds that should the court decide not to prohibit Dunlap from issuing the licenses, she must establish procedures to handle the "dangers created."

The attorney general's office filed the complaint on Monday. District judge Louis McDonald allowed attorneys to amend the original complaint because they argued that it had been filed in haste March 22 when it was learned that Dunlap would again issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Dunlap, who has 30 days to respond to the complaint, brought national focus to New Mexico when she issued 66 marriage licenses to same-sex couples on February 20. She argued that state law didn't appear to ban such a practice. Dunlap stopped issuing the licenses later that day when she received a letter from attorney general Patricia Madrid. But she attempted again to issue more licenses in March, prompting Madrid's office to seek a restraining order.

The attorney general's office said Dunlap caused a dangerous situation for county employees, because the courthouse in Bernalillo was inundated with same-sex couples on February 20. Dunlap's attorney, Paul Livingston, has said such claims are exaggerated. Madrid's office contends state law makes clear that marriage licenses should be issued only to heterosexual couples, because the state's marriage application form asks for one male and one female applicant. Livingston said New Mexico marriage laws are gender-neutral and more favorable to same-sex marriage than any other state in the union. He added that equal treatment is guaranteed under New Mexico's constitution.

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