Friday, February 20, 2009

Today in Gay History

February 20, 2004, in New Mexico, mind you:

Victoria Dunlap, Republican county clerk of rural Sandoval County, New Mexico, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing lack of legal grounds for denial.

Dunlap, a married Republican with two children, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming legal justification for her action because New Mexico marriage law does not mention gender. As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, "[Dunlap] said she sought an opinion from her county attorney after she got a call earlier this week from someone asking about same-sex ceremonies. 'This has nothing to do with politics or morals, [she said]. If there are no legal grounds that say this should be prohibited, I can't withhold it . . . This office won't say no until shown it's not permissible.' "

66 licenses were issued, all on February 20th, and 26 couples married on the Sandoval County Courthouse steps on February 2o, 2004. By March 23, 2004 64 of the couples had married as evidenced by the return and filing of licenses and Certificates of Marriage.

By the end of the day, however, New Mexico's state attorney general issued an opinion stating that the licenses were "invalid under state law,"and the Sandoval County clerk's office stopped issuing them at 4:15 pm that same day.

A district court judge later issued a restraining order against Dunlap, prohibiting her from issuing any further licenses to same-sex couples. Dunlap then filed a motion with the state supreme court for permission to continue issuing the licenses, but on July 8, 2004 the state supreme court rejected the motion. The restraining order was never lifted, and Dunlap, whose term ended on January 1, 2005, was heavily criticized for her actions by the local Republican party and by other county and state officials.

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