Judge upholds ruling for Los Alamos County clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Posted at: 09/04/2013 11:09 AM
Updated at: 09/04/2013 12:47 PM
By: Erica Zucco and Elizabeth Reed, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The couple who filed the lawsuit, Janet Newton and Maria Thibodeau, celebrate with their lawyers after the judge's ruling.
The couple who filed the lawsuit, Janet Newton and Maria Thibodeau, celebrate with their lawyers after the judge's ruling.



LOS ALAMOS – A district court judge upheld a ruling Tuesday that the Los Alamos County clerk must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Judge Sheri Raphaelson ruled yesterday that County Clerk Sharon Stover must issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple who filed a lawsuit in Los Alamos County. But Stover refused and appeared in court for an appeal hearing on Tuesday.

Stover's attorney argued the legislature must change the statute on marriage licenses in order to issue them to same-sex couples. The current marriage license forms require a male and female applicant.

But Judge Raphaelson disagreed, saying the statute wasn't unclear.

"Each couple means two people, the clerk is required to issue to any two people," Judge Raphaelson said during the hearing. "The law says the statute trumps the form. I find the clerk has clear duty to issue a license in this case."

The couple who filed the lawsuit, Janet Newton and Maria Thibodeau, celebrated with many in the packed courtroom after the judge's ruling.

"For me, it was very important for it to be a Los Alamos County license, that's got a lot of power for anybody who is connected to the community to recognize that--that your community recognizes that it is important to view you as equal," Newton said.

After the hearing, Stover told KOB Eyewitness News 4 that she will issue the license to the couple, but said she will still use the "male and female" forms until the legislature issues new, gender-neutral licenses.

"We've been kinda caught in the middle of this issue, to be honest, and we really need the form antiquated. It needs to be fixed by the state legislature," Stover said. 

Seven other county clerks in the state are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, either out of their own accord or because of a judge's ruling.

But the entire association of county clerks has asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to make a uniform decision on gay marriage instead of what they call "piecemeal governance," with orders coming down county by county.