SANTA FE (KRQE) - Two Santa Fe men picked up their wedding license Friday after a judge accepted their argument that banning same-sex marriage in the state is unconstitutional.
The bombshell ruling by a District Court judge Thursday night came days after the Doña Ana County clerk decided on his own to start issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
The news the judge signed the order spread quickly by social media, and gay couples appeared at the clerk's office Friday to file for licenses and get hitched.
But Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar--who had said she believed the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional--wasn't ready to act. That all changed at 1:30 p.m. Friday after her office received the judge's order and the county attorney reviewed it.
Since then same-sex couples have come through the doors applying for and receiving marriage licenses with some of them then marrying in the courtroom upstairs.
"Now is the time to right the wrongs for years, hundreds of years, of oppression against the gay community," Salazar said. "And this is what's happening today."
By the time the office closed, more than 50 licenses had been issued.
A week ago Brian Egolf, an attorney for Yon Hudson and Alex Hanna, filed a petition in District Court saying state marriage statues are gender-neutral in language and do not ban same-sex marriage.
"This is significant because this is the first time in the history of New Mexico a judge has said in an order the Constitution and the law require marriage equality," Egolf said.
He also argued the marriage license application used in New Mexico that specifies a man and a woman is just a sample form and not the law.
Egolf called the ban is discriminatory in violation of the state Constitution which guarantees equal protection under the law.
District Judge Sarah Singleton agreed signing an order Thursday night ordering the Santa Fe County clerk to issue the marriage licenses or to appear in court to explain her position.
Hudson and Hanna were actually the second couple through the clerk's doors Friday and left with marriage license in hand.
"We'd also like to see this resolved statewide in the Supreme Court since this was part of the point of the legal challenge," Hanna said. "So right now that's not the case."
The couple said they'll wait until they can get their families in town to have a wedding ceremony.
Still pending is their case in the state Supreme Court asking it to consolidate lawsuits statewide and rule on the issue of same-sex marriage.
So while his clients now have a marriage license, Egolf said they will still pursue that case.
Salazar said the clerk's office will remain open until 7 p.m. Friday handling license applications.
The gay marriage debate really heated up on Wednesday when Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins suddenly announced he would start issuing same-sex licenses.
There was no court order in that case. Ellins acted on his own saying he had reviewed the state marriage statute and felt it was gender-neutral.
Doña Ana County has since issued about 90 same sex marriage licenses with dozens of weddings later performed.
Up to this point there has been no legal challenge to his action, but there was one mounting.
On Thursday 29 Republican legislators said they planned to ask the state Supreme Court to stop the Doña Ana County clerk.
But following Friday's developments they now say they're reviewing their options.
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