New Mexico same-sex couples hold massive wedding reception

BY admin

June 08 2004 12:00 AM ET

It had all the trappings of a super-sized wedding reception. There were the traditional toasts and cake-cutting moments along with a band and two choirs to serenade the happy couples. Some of the more than 60 couples who were issued same-sex marriage licenses back in February by Sandoval County clerk Victoria Dunlap gathered with friends and family Sunday in a ballroom at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

"This feels like a reunion," said Claire Fulenwider, who married her partner of 22 years in February. "We're looking for the people we were standing in line with at the courthouse."

Cheryl Gooding, of the Coalition for Equality in New Mexico, said the event was held "both as a celebration of the marriages that did happen and of the opportunities that we hope will exist in the future for gay and lesbian couples to get married." The event, sponsored by the coalition, also served as a fund-raiser and kickoff for a public education campaign on the need for legal and civil rights protections for same-sex couples.

However, the political and legal battles were not far from people's minds. Linda Rogers and Melissa Jameson, the first same-sex couple to file a marriage certificate in New Mexico, said they were pleased no legal action had been taken to declare their marriage illegal.

The reception comes on the heels of Dunlap's comments that she may start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples again this week despite a court order that her attorney calls illegal and invalid. "There is no valid order in place," Dunlap's attorney, Paul Livingston, said Sunday. If there were, he said, "of course we would not even consider issuing the licenses." Dunlap has said her concern is to fairly administer the law--and to avoid acting in a discriminatory manner if the law truly permits same-sex marriages.

Livingston said a temporary restraining order issued March 23 is no longer in effect because the matter has been heard by Judge Louis McDonald, fulfilling a supreme court requirement. He said temporary restraining orders cannot be extended indefinitely; there is a process by which they must expire or be converted into preliminary injunctions, which was not done in this case. The state has disagreed, arguing that the order remains in effect until the state's claims against Dunlap are settled.

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