N.M. County Issues Marriage Licenses as Couple Sues for Legal Recognition

By Daniel Reynolds

Originally published on Advocate.com August 21 2013 6:46 PM ET

In a surprise move, a New Mexico county began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples today, reports the Associated Press.

Lynn Ellins, the clerk for Dona Ana County, said his office provided 35 licenses to same-sex couples. New Mexico attorney general Gary King said he would not contest the marriages, in a statement later in the day.

"It's a happy office today. Lots of happy people," Ellins told the AP. "One of the first couples that came in today said they had been waiting 31 years. Another couple says they've been waiting 43 years. It's time to stop waiting."

In Santa Fe County a lesbian couple filed an emergency request with a district court to obtain a marriage license, as one of them has a life-threatening illness.

Jen Roper and Angelique Neuman, partners of 21 years, filed the request with New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court because Roper's health has been deteriorating rapidly due to brain cancer. A marriage would provide legal protections for Neuman and their three children in the event of her death.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights are among the organizations representing the couple in their petition.

"I want to know that my family will be protected if I pass away," Roper said in a statement. "Angelique and I have been married in our hearts for 21 years and raised three wonderful children together. Because of my illness, we do not have the luxury of waiting years for the courts to decide whether loving, committed same-sex couples can marry in New Mexico. For us, the time is now."