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Suit against clerk who allowed gay marriages dropped

Suit against clerk who allowed gay marriages dropped

New Mexico attorney general Patricia Madrid's lawsuit over the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in Sandoval County has been dismissed at her request. State district judge Louis McDonald on Monday tossed out the lawsuit without prejudice, meaning the case could be refiled. "At this point, the attorney general is not planning further action," said Sam Thompson, spokeswoman for Madrid. The dismissal came three days after the expiration of Victoria Dunlap's term as Sandoval County clerk. Dunlap issued 66 marriage licenses to same-sex couples last February 20, but she stopped late in the day after an advisory letter from Madrid declared them illegal. Madrid's office had sued to prevent Dunlap from issuing the licenses. Sally Padilla, who took office January 1 as county clerk, said she would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Before dismissing the case, McDonald approved a motion by the attorney general to make Padilla the defendant. Padilla and Madrid reached a mutual agreement to dismiss the case without prejudice, Thompson said. Paul Livingston, Dunlap's attorney, said he and his client were caught off guard by the dismissal. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised they would do this without letting us know," he said. "The judge substituted and dismissed it as if no one else had any rights in this case." Dunlap, who now lives in Ohio, said Monday she did the right thing when she issued the licenses. "It is not illegal in New Mexico," she said. "The law is wide open, and it is embarrassing that the attorney general can't figure it out. Those couples [issued licenses] need to get together and sue the hell out of Patricia Madrid." Thompson said the dismissal of the lawsuit does not affect the licenses issued to same-sex couples. "The court has made no determination on the licenses," Thompson said. "I am not aware of any plans to address that issue." (AP)

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