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New Mexico Telegram » Courts, Featured, LGBT » Los Alamos county clerk rejects court order, won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses

Los Alamos county clerk rejects court order, won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses

Sharon SToverThe county clerk in Los Alamos county became the first in the state to reject a court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Clerk Sharon Stover, a Republican, said in a statement that she came to the decision over the holiday weekend.

“I based my denial of a license last week on the actual language contained in the statutes,” Stover said in a statement. “The statements contained on the marriage license that is issued by the Clerk’s office, as set forth in State law, requires a male and female or bride and groom applicant.”

In addition, Stover said that she wants the state Supreme Court to rule on the issue.

“However, I do want to say in closing that this is a legislative problem; forms enacted as state statutes should be changed by the appropriate legislative body, which is our state legislature,” Stover said. “I urge the State Supreme Court to take up this matter quickly and to provide guidance to all County Clerks throughout the State.”

The full statement is available at the bottom of the post.

Hundreds of same-sex couples throughout the state have been married in six counties that have clerks issuing same-sex marriage certificates. These include three counties, Bernalillo, Santa Fe and Taos, which have been issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a court order.

Three others, Dona Ana, San Miguel and Valencia, have done so without a court order. It began when Dona Ana county Clerk Lynn Ellins began issuing marriage licenses following a review of the law that he said showed nothing barred same-sex couples from being married.

Republicans filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Ellins from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples late last week.

Stover will now meet in First Judicial District Court to explain why she is defying a court order.

Stover’s full statement to the media:

Last week, Los Alamos County received a lawsuit and related order from First Judicial District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson compelling the Clerk’s office to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses, or appear before her in court on Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 10 a.m. to explain why the licenses are not being issued. As previously stated on Friday, I consider this to be a matter of great importance, not only to Los Alamos County, but to all County Clerks in New Mexico, as I have already indicated by my support in joining all of the other Clerks in the New Mexico Association of Counties’ request for the State Supreme Court to provide procedural guidance on how we should proceed.

I have weighed my options carefully over the holiday weekend in reaching a decision. First, as Clerk, I am required to uphold the laws of the State of New Mexico. I based my denial of a license last week on the actual language contained in the statutes. The statements contained on the marriage license that is issued by the Clerk’s office, as set forth in State law, requires a male and female or bride and groom applicant. I respect and value the rights of each person to be treated as equally and fairly as an individual as our Constitution states. Clearly, the marriage license in State statute has not been updated since 1961. It does not work for same sex couples, and that is a matter for the legislature to fix, not a Clerk and not a District Judge. A marriage license is a legally binding, permanent record signed by both applicants. Because the license issue has not previously been addressed in any of the other court proceedings, I have decided to appear before Judge Raphaelson tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Los Alamos to state my concern about the outdated and deficient forms. The County Attorney has filed our answer to the writ of mandamus we received last week, and I will let that document address each of the concerns specifically without further comment. In fact, because I will be appearing in court, it would not be appropriate for me to give any further comments to the media prior to Wednesday morning.

However, I do want to say in closing that this is a legislative problem; forms enacted as state statutes should be changed by the appropriate legislative body, which is our state legislature. I urge the State Supreme Court to take up this matter quickly and to provide guidance to all County Clerks throughout the State. Piecemeal litigation in courts across New Mexico is not good governance. County Clerks need a comprehensive and clear answer from the State of New Mexico addressing this issue. We all need to be issuing the same marriage license, and following the same laws.

Written by

Matthew Reichbach has blogged about New Mexico politics since 2006. Matthew was a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation. In addition to politics, Matthew is an avid sports fan, especially of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and TV fan.

Filed under: Courts, Featured, LGBT · Tags: , ,

9 Responses to "Los Alamos county clerk rejects court order, won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses"

  1. I really want to read the judge’s response, because the LA County Clerk essentially said that the District Court Judge doesn’t have authority over her. The judge ain’t gonna like that…

  2. Los Alamos Resident says:

    She is denying them only because she *wants* to deny them. I’ve read the same statutes, which state that the form must be “substantially” the same. Stover is using it as a cop-out.

    1. Craig says:

      Sharon Stover is a repulicant. Did you actually expect anything different from her?

  3. Sue Brown says:

    What’s your problem? There’s always someone who has to go against something. Do what you’re supposed to do and stop causing trouble. Just who do YOU think YOU are? I hope the voters in Los Alamos wake up and don’t vote you in again.

  4. Chris in SF says:

    Is this the one she’s referring to? As Los Alamos resident says, it’s likely that the phrase “substantially similar” covers a minor change of striking the words “male” and “female” and changing “bride” and groom” to “Spouse”.

    40-1-17. Uniform use form. (2013)
    Statute text
    To ensure a uniform system of records of all marriages contracted and the better preservation of the records for future reference, the form of application, license and certificate shall be substantially as provided in Section 40-1-18 NMSA 1978, each blank to be numbered consecutively corresponding with the page number of the record book in the clerk’s office; provided that the medical evaluation language shall not be printed on the application until such time as the secretary of health deems such evaluation necessary through the issuance of rules.

    40-1-18. Form of application, license and certificate. (1961)
    Statute text

    APPLICATION FOR MARRIAGE LICENSE
    No. _________ STATEMENTS
    RECEIVED AND FILED
    IN COUNTY CLERK’S OFFICE
    at ______ o’clock ______ .M.
    ________________________________________ 19 _______
    DATE OF PREMARITAL PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
    Bride _______________________________________________
    Groom ______________________________________________
    COUNTY CLERK __________________________ COUNTY
    By __________________________________________ Deputy

    To the County Clerk: We the undersigned hereby make application to be united in marriage and certify that we are not related within the degree prohibited by the laws of this state; that neither is bound by marriage to another; that there exists no legal impediment to this marriage; and that the information contained herein is correct.

    Male Applicant Female Applicant
    Date of Date of
    Birth ________________________________ Birth ________________________________
    Place of Place of
    Birth ________________________________ Birth ________________________________
    Present Present
    Address _____________________________ Address _____________________________
    _____________________________________ _____________________________________
    Signature Signature
    Subscribed and sworn to before me this ______________ day of ___________ A.D. 19 ___
    (seal)
    _____________________________________ By _____________________________ Deputy
    Signature County Clerk

    CONSENT OF PARENT OR GUARDIAN
    (Where either party is under age)
    I, the parent (guardian) of _______________________, hereby consent to the granting of a license to marry, waiving the question of minority.
    ______________________________________
    Signature Parent (Guardian)
    I, the parent (guardian) of _______________________, hereby consent to the granting of a license to marry, waiving the question of minority.
    ______________________________________
    Signature Parent (Guardian)

    MARRIAGE LICENSE
    State of New Mexico,
    ss.
    County of _____________.
    To any Person Authorized by Law to Perform the Marriage Ceremony:
    Greeting:
    You are hereby authorized to join in marriage _________________ of _________________ and _________________ of _________________ and of this license you will make due return to my office within the time prescribed by law.
    Witness my hand and the seal of said court at ________________ this _______________ day of ____________, 19 ____.
    ______________________________________
    County Clerk
    Recorded _____________, 19 ____, at ____ .M.
    In marriage record book no. ____, page ____.
    ______________________________________
    County Clerk

    MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
    State of New Mexico,
    ss.
    County of _____________.
    I hereby certify that on the _______________ day of ____________, A. D., 19 ____, at ____ in said county and state, I, the undersigned, a _______________, did join in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony in accordance with the laws of the state of New Mexico and the authorization of the foregoing license _________________ of _________________ and _________________ of _________________.
    Witness my hand and seal the day and year last above written.
    ______________________________________
    (Official Title)
    WITNESSES:
    ______________________________________
    ______________________________________
    Signed ___________________________ Groom Signed ___________________________ Bride.
    Recorded this ____________ day of ____________, A. D., 19 ____, at ____M.
    Marriage Record Book No. ____, Page No. ____.
    ______________________________________
    County Clerk

  5. Another Los Alamos Resident says:

    Sharon Stover is an embarrassment to Los Alamos county. She epitomizes the (incorrect) stereotype that Los Alamos is intolerant and bigoted. Hopefully County Clerk Stover will realize that her failure to honor the equal rights of all New Mexicans continues to fuel the divide that so much of the rest of the New Mexico community feels with Los Alamos county. Hopefully she will have the wisdom to resign from her position. She owes it to her community to step down and admit that her personal religious beliefs trump her duties as clerk, and therefore she is unfit to serve in that position—or any other elected position for that matter.

  6. Peter says:

    So this lowly clerk thinks it is her job to interpret the law? Got news for ya, honey, it’s the court’s job to rule on the law, and it is your job to follow their ruling. Either do your job, or resign if the performance of your duties is so repugnant to you.

  7. Scott says:

    Good for her! It is about time someone stood up to defend Godly marriage in this state!

  8. Dale says:

    This whole situation needs to be addressed by the legislature, not by some district judge who wants to be a “trendsetter”.