Couples still marrying despite lack of judges performing ceremonies

Staff report

Many judges across the eastern side of the state are no longer performing marriage ceremonies, but that hasn’t stopped couples from applying for marriage licenses in Roosevelt County.

About 45 couples have applied for a marriage license this year. About 10 percent of those applications were filled out by same-sex couples.

Most judges in eastern New Mexico, including Roosevelt, Curry and Quay counties, are no longer performing marriage ceremonies, according to Roosevelt County Clerk DeAun Searl. For at least a few of them, the state’s new same-sex marriage law is to blame.

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to same-sex couples in October. Shortly after, local judges stopped marrying couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Searl says a state statute says it’s the judge’s choice on whether they want to perform marriages. She added the county closest to this area where judges still perform marriages is Lincoln County.

Though judges have shown objection to the state’s new law, Searl says things have been mild in the Roosevelt County Courthouse.

There have been no protests or major issues, according to Searl, but there have been some complaints about the new marriage license form.

Searl said one woman complained that there was no longer a space labeled for the bride with the gender-neutral forms.

“That kind of stuff we’ve heard complaints about,” Searl said.

The clerk who preceded Searl as well as the county’s deputy clerk resigned after the state Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in protest of the law. Roosevelt County’s first same-sex marriage license was filed on Dec. 30.

According to New Mexico law, judges in municipal, probate or district courts can perform a ceremony. Any person credentialed by a religious society or a clergyman or authorized representative of a federally recognized Indian tribe can also perform a marriage.

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