N.M. lawmakers table marriage ban; judge rejects transgender marriage
February 17 2005 1:00 AM ET
A New Mexico bill aimed at defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman has been tabled by the house consumer and public affairs committee. Tuesday's vote effectively killed the legislation, sponsored by Republican representative Gloria Vaughn of Alamogordo. The issue is still alive in the legislature. A measure sponsored by Republican senator Bill Sharer of Farmington has yet to be heard in committee. His bill would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Vaughn's measure called for imposing fines on clergy who perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. It also specified that same-sex marriages from other states or countries would not be recognized in New Mexico. The legislation also would have nullified marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples last year in Valencia County.
In related news, Lea County probate judge Darrell Powell had to break the news to a Hobbs, N.M., couple who showed up at his office Valentine's Day with a marriage license, ready to tie the knot. After asking everyone but the couple to leave his office, he told them he couldn't do it. The reason: One of them looked like a woman, considered herself a woman, and had been taking female hormones for years but had not completed a sex-change procedure. Under state law, the 37-year-old was still considered a man.
Without having the procedure along with a doctor's certificate verifying the gender change and a new birth certificate, the couple can't get married in New Mexico. Marriages between same-sex couples were deemed invalid last year after the state attorney general ordered the Sandoval County clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Powell said the attorney general's decision was the deciding factor in his refusing to perform the ceremony. "He was very respectful about it," the woman told the Hobbs News-Sun, which used pseudonyms in referring to the couple in order to protect their privacy. "He sat down with us and tried to find a way we could be married."
It was disappointing, but the couple said it didn't change their relationship. "The bottom line is, in our hearts and minds, we are married," said the woman's partner, a 43-year-old Hobbs man. Lea County clerk Melinda Hughes remembers seeing the couple in her office a week earlier to obtain their marriage license. "The driver's license is what we generally check. One license had an F, for female," Hughes said.
The clerk's office figured it had issued a legally binding document in accordance with state law, but then came an anonymous call that claimed the marriage license had been issued to two men. Even if the call had come before the license was issued, the clerk's office could not have refused to give the couple a marriage license based on the driver's licenses the two presented. "Without absolute proof, we could not refuse the license and certainly not on an anonymous phone call," said Pat Chappelle of the clerk's office. (AP)