Originally published on Advocate.com March 24 2004 12:00 AM ET
Fearing legal action, the Sandoval County clerk in Bernalillo, N.M., made a quick about-face Tuesday and canceled her plans to issue more marriage licenses to same-sex couples. "It's not going to happen," clerk Victoria Dunlap told about 60 people waiting when the county offices opened. Dunlap said she'd heard that Attorney General Patricia Madrid would seek a restraining order if Dunlap went ahead and issued licenses. The clerk issued 66 licenses to gay and lesbian couples on February 20. She stopped within hours of Madrid's sending a letter advising that the licenses were invalid.
County attorney David Mathews and Madrid said they were ready to go to court to stop Dunlap. "They're going to hit me with every kind of political power tool that they can.... They're going to go after me," Dunlap told the crowd on Tuesday.
One couple at the county building said they've been waiting 27 years to formalize their relationship. Katherine and Reva Chapman said they met November 3, 1977, and have been together ever since. They both changed their last names to a new name, Chapman.
Dunlap said she believes same-sex marriage is an equal rights issue, not a political one. "The legislature is not willing to meet and define it or do anything about it," she told the Albuquerque Journal on Monday. "If I could see there was deliberation or anything going on, this wouldn't be necessary. I imagine the answer would still be in the courts." Asked Tuesday whether she personally believes in same-sex marriage, Dunlap said, "I personally believe in civil rights." Pressed for a more specific answer, she responded, "I see nothing against it." She suggested the couples go to the attorney general and "see what you can do to change this."
Daymon Ely, Sandoval County commission chairman, told the Journal on Monday that Dunlap's proposal to issue more licenses was unfair and wrong. "It's official, she's a nut," he said. "This is wrong she's putting people in harm's way. It's wrong she is doing this in spite of the attorney general's opinion."