A New Mexico county clerk is still temporarily prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a judge has ruled. State district judge Louis McDonald sided with the state on Wednesday during a status conference to clarify issues on the case. "We want to make the status of the case very clear, and we don't want to mislead the public," Asst. Atty. Gen. Chris Coppin told the court. "I don't want to see the county clerk go down a path that will have consequences."
Sandoval County clerk Victoria Dunlap had issued 66 marriage licenses to same-sex couples on February 20. Paul Livingston, an attorney representing Dunlap, said he would not rule out the possibility of Dunlap's deciding to again issue such marriage licenses, despite McDonald's ruling. "This is a very important matter, a very serious matter," Livingston said. "It affects people other than Ms. Dunlap. It affects people throughout the county and throughout the state and maybe even throughout the country." Dunlap contends that New Mexico laws support same-sex marriage and therefore she should be allowed to resume issuing the marriage licenses. But the state attorney general's office contends that issuing marriage licenses to gay couples is illegal.
Sue Hallgarth and her partner of 17 years, Mary Ellen Capek, attended the hearing. Hallgarth said afterward that she was skeptical of Dunlap's motives. "I'm not quite sure why Victoria Dunlap and her lawyer are pushing it quite the way they are," she said. "It's not clear to me what their interest is." Hallgarth and Capek were married last year in Canada. Courts in several Canadian provinces have declared same-sex marriage legal. Hallgarth said her message to Dunlap is "not to make political footballs of us or the issue. It seems the issue is a divisive one, and they're playing into that divisiveness."
Dunlap asked the state supreme court on Tuesday to dismiss a temporary restraining order preventing her from handing out more such licenses. Livingston contends that the temporary restraining order issued by a judge who withdrew from the case months ago cannot still be in effect and therefore the window for issuing such licenses is open again. The temporary restraining order was by law to be no more than 10 days, Livingston said, although the supreme court extended it until the matter could be heard by the new judge--McDonald. "According to the judge, the temporary restraining order is still there, but we don't see how the law allows that," Livingston said. "There's a rule of civil procedure that temporary restraining orders have to go away after 10 days." Livingston also has asked the high court to quash a May 7 order that restated the extension of the temporary order.