Santa Fe city leaders say they see no legal reason same-sex couples can’t get married here — even though county clerks and some state officials disagree.

Mayor David Coss and City Councilor Patti Bushee held a news conference Tuesday to announce that they will ask the rest of the City Council to support a resolution urging county clerks across the state to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses for gay couples under current state laws.

Although the resolution would have no force of law, Coss said, “It’s time to push this issue. I’ve worked on immigrant rights, labor rights and human rights, and on the rights of same-sex couples. I’ve seen the struggle in the Legislature. I’ve seen the hopes rise and the hopes be dashed.”

Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar, who took office this year, said in an interview Tuesday that she has no intention of issuing same-sex marriage licences unless there’s a change in state law. She learned about the city news conference Tuesday morning, along with news reporters, but didn’t attend the announcement.

“I would love to be able to issue marriage licenses [to same-sex couples], but under the current law, I feel I’m not free and clear to do so,” she said. “The Legislature creates the laws and the judges interpret the laws, and I, as a county clerk, do not create or interpret laws. And I feel that my oath of office does not allow me to act counter to the laws of New Mexico.”

Although the state Legislature recently left town without acting on a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage, Coss said he wants the same rights for all his children, including a daughter who is gay.

“As a dad, I’d just like to walk her down the aisle some day, and I will never get to do that if we don’t move on these issues in Santa Fe,” he said. “Santa Fe is ready. New Mexico is ready, I know. Our country is ready to move on this.”

The resolution is based partly on an opinion from the City Attorney’s Office that says, “New Mexico’s statutory definition of marriage is gender-neutral. Since New Mexico does not define marriage as between a man and a woman, and since New Mexico does not prohibit same-sex marriage, same-sex marriage is permitted in New Mexico.”

However, the official marriage contract in New Mexico is recorded by the county clerk, and both Coss and Bushee acknowledge that the city is likely to find itself in a fight.

“I think you are going to see this appear before the New Mexico Supreme Court,” said Bushee, the longest serving member of the City Council and its only openly gay member. “It’s the forefront of civil rights. We are the last group that is allowed to legally be discriminated against.”

On Feb. 20, 2004, the Sandoval County clerk issued marriage licenses to 64 same-sex couples, but the state attorney general at the time, Patricia Madrid, ordered the clerk to stop the practice and said the licenses were not valid. First Judicial District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco and her partner were among those who received licenses that day.

A 2011 opinion by the state attorney general, however, declared that valid same-sex marriages from other states were valid in New Mexico.

Attorney General Gary King is out of the country and was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but his spokesman, Phil Sisneros, said the office won’t issue an opinion on the matter unless it receives a formal request from a state official. Asked if King would order clerks to stop issuing licenses to same-sex couples if they began the practice, Sisneros said, “I don’t know the answer to that question. It would have to be weighed and considered.”

Among those in attendance at Tuesday’s news conference were a handful of gay city workers. As city Attorney Geno Zamora wrapped up his remarks and looked out over the crowd, his voice broke.

“The law supports this today,” he said. “Same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico. It’s legal for our brothers and sisters, for our parents, for our nephews and nieces and for our friends.”

He added later, “This issue touches every family and every friendship, every person you work with. Equality means equality for everybody.”

City Finance Department Director Mel Morgan said he and his partner of 26 years have entered into a number of legal agreements in an attempt to secure their mutual assets and rights regarding decisions about health care and other issues. But if they could get legally married, they would do so right away.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Morgan, pausing to slip a finger under his glasses as he spoke to a reporter after the news conference. “I thank Mayor Coss immensely because it is very emotional for me, too — to be thought of as equal is just so important to me.”

Bushee, who arrived at the event holding the hand of her partner, Marisa Again, had announced last week a series of proposed city code amendments on gay rights. One proposal would codify a practice already in place that allows domestic partner insurance coverage for city employees and their families; another would require any business on contract with the city to provide those benefits to its workers; a third would create a Human Rights Commission for the city, she said.

Councilors Chris Calvert, Carmichael Dominguez and Peter Ives said Tuesday that they would vote for the resolution, meaning the measure has support of a majority of the governing body.

Ives, a parishioner at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, said the question was complicated. “It is a struggle of conscience always when the dictates of one’s church seem to conflict with the dictates of civil society,” he said. “Those are difficult questions. I support the church in its position, but I too support what I think makes sense in civil society, which is nondiscrimination.”

Councilor Chris Rivera said late Tuesday, however, that he’s inclined not to vote for the resolution.

“I think this is beyond the scope of our work, really,” he said. “I was elected, I think, to deal with city issues. This is a state and federal issue. I’d like to see us do what some other states have done and take it to a referendum, take it to the voters.”

Two decades worth of legislative efforts to clarify the same-sex marriage issue have resulted in no action by state lawmakers. This year, a bill proposed by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, would have called for a general-election ballot question on making marriage a constitutional right. Bills to narrow the definition of marriage to one man and one woman have also failed in previous sessions.

“If you wait for the New Mexico Legislature, you might be waiting a long time,” Coss said. “We have waited long enough.”

Coss said he realizes the city can’t force Salazar or any other county clerk to issue licenses, but if they don’t, he said, there are groups ready to take them to court. He didn’t specify which organizations he meant.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said in a statement that it concurs with the opinion of the city attorney and called on the courts for guidance, but Director Peter Simonson stopped short of saying whether the group would file litigation soon.

“A legal case is one of the ways to clarify that same-sex couples do indeed have the right to marry under the New Mexico Constitution,” said Simonson, “and the ACLU of New Mexico is of course considering this approach.”

Bushee seemed full of hope about the effect of the proposal.

“We all love weddings,” she said. “Let’s have more of them.”

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 or Follow her on Twitter @julieanngrimm.

(55) comments


For all you Catholics carping about morality here, let's remember 2 things...

1. This nation is not a theocracy, so you have no right to impose your religion-based morals on any other citizen.

2. You support an organization that systematically rapes children and then covers up their crimes. You have no basis for lecturing anyone else about morals. First remove the log from thine own eye...

Steve Salazar

You have no right to impose your atheist based immorals on any other citizen.

You know of rape by Priest that happened this decade, this century, and you didn't call 911?


How am I imposing anything on anyone? I'm not restricting anyone's rights. Are you one of those strange people that think syou are being imposed on if other people don't adhere to the moral beliefs of your religion?

And I'm not an atheist, and you have no basis for calling me immoral, so you can just lay off the ad hominem attack there pal. I have higher moral standards than most people who have religion-based morals. In fact, you, in your bigotry, are violating what Jesus said is the 2nd greatest commandment of all. Based on that I can assume you are of questionable moral character.

The child rape has been well reported, as has the continued covering it up, and yes that extends even to this day. That was a pretty lame attempt to cover for people that protect child rapists, and that puts you in the same boat with them. And you try to claim morality?

Steve Salazar

So you really think that trying to impose your gay marriage agenda is moral, but if others try to impose their traditional marriage agenda they are immoral?

Do you really know any abuse by Priests that occurred this decade, this century?


Salazar, really? This has to be explained to you? Ok. Allowing gays to marry is imposing nothing on you, it does not even impact you, it prevents you from doing nothing. But when you impose your belief of not allowing gay marriage, you are impacting other people, you are actually preventing them from doing something. Do you seriously not understand that difference?

The cover up of abuse has persisted well into this decade, and that is just as bad. One reason it's just as bad is because it might allow them to continue abusing and we would probably not even know it since the victims typically don't tell anyone until decades later. But hey, you want to protect the cover-up of child rapists, which just might be allowing rape to continue, how moral.

Steve Salazar

I'm not talking about the cover-up, do you know of actual new cases of abuse?

Seriously, you don't see that imposing your moral ideals on other citizens is the same as me imposing my moral ideals on other citizens. The difference is that you think your view is the correct one, and mine is just the view of a bunch of idiots. I get it now.


So, allowing gays to marry is forcing you to do what, exactly?

The difference is my view doesn't force you to do anything, nor prevent you from doing anything. Whereas you're view prevents people from doing something. So please tell me, if gays are allowed to marry, precisely what will you be forced to do or prevented from doing?

Steve Salazar

You do realize that if the changes you want are to come to pass, it will take the majority to allow the changes to be made, not the minority shoving those changes down our throats.

Calling Catholics and other large groups of people immoral child rapist enablers isn't going to help your cause move forward. Why should the majority want to help people who just bash them?


Just as I thought, you can't answer the question, because equal rights for gays doesn't impose anything on you (except that it doesn't allow you to impose something on them). Again, your stance is a violation of what Jesus said is the 2nd most important commandment, and therefore according to your own religious beliefs is immoral. I don't have to call you immoral, Jesus already did.

And I've got news for you, the majority of Americans support equal rights for gays. Gays don't need support from bigots because you are not the majority.

Steve Salazar

So I might go to hell, but you still need the majority, to get the California law and DOMA overturned, and to have gay marriage become legal in NM.


As if Constitutional rights are subject to majority vote. Nonetheless, like I said, the majority of Americans support gay marriage. Obviously, most of us are not bigots like you people that want to deny rights.

Steve Salazar

Marriage is a Constitutional right? Where in the document might I find that?

Comment deleted.
Steve Martinez

You really should be glad that this is coming out. The courts will decide whether there is a Constitutional right to marriage. That will be decided by nine justices, six of whom are Catholic, just like the Mayor.

Alicia Dante

Isnt the mayor and the councilors being hypocrtical? You all remember the to-do about those almost nude bicyclists riding from the plaza to the railyard to protest the use of oil. Well the mayor and council succumbed to 1000 Catholics in opposition to such nudity even if they never saw it or came to the plaza on that day.
But now the Mayor a proclaimed Catholic can step back from the Church's teachings and advocate same sex marriage because his daughter is gay.
Isnt this picking and choosing of dogma the perfect epitome of the definition of a politician?
As for Mr Zamora's ignorant proclamation that the word "wife" is gender neutral maybe he should actually do some research before making such a remark. Below find the origin of the word "wife"

The word is of Germanic origin, from Proto-Germanic *wībam, "woman". In Middle English it had the form wif, and in Old English wīf, "woman or wife". It is related to Modern German Weib (woman, female),[1] and may derive ultimately from the Indo-European root ghwībh- "shame; pudenda" (cf. Tocharian B kwīpe and Tocharian A kip, each meaning "female pudenda", with clear sexual overtones)[2] The original meaning of the phrase "wife" as simply "woman", unconnected with marriage or a husband, is preserved in words such as "midwife" and "fishwife".

Steve Martinez

To be fair to the city attorney, NM Statute Chapter 40, article 1 is the statute that describe how a marriage license is to be obtained, and who can get a license. This is gender neutral. However, Chapter 40, article 2 speaks of the roles and responsibilities of the husband and wife. This is where, unless the words are re-defined, or changed to partner(s), gender neutrality ends.

Comment deleted.
Evette Montano

I. Daniels, I like the way you word things. You are right you know!

Pat Shackleford

Oh waiter, waiter, over here....check please? We're late for our wedding. Do we have to stand here another day? Don't you know who I am? I'll be mayor next year!

Doug Smart

Hurrah for Mayor Coss and Councilor Bushee! I support leaders who speak out for equality and justice. And in this case for love, too. Maintaining these ideals will do much more to make Santa Fe and New Mexico stronger than will fixing potholes.

The chiding you are getting about fixing potholes or how god wants this or that to be a certain way is just a smoke screen thrown up by people who are afraid of society moving forward.

I'm in the 58% (and rising, according to this month's national polls) of Americans who believe marriage for all is the right way to go.

Francisco Carbajal

Mayor David Coss is wrong to say he thinks Santa Fe is ready for same-sex marriages. Who does he think he is to claim a victory of readiness for our city to accept same-sex marriages? The issue of placing this subject matter in front of the citizen's to vote from a state legislature persepctive is not going to happen. Santa Fe is not going to accept this wishey washy city council resolution to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in this community. The argument of having equal rights and civil rights does not apply to the same-sex issue. This is a moral turpitude issue and the same-sex marriage supporters need to face the fact that it is not the same as a married couple who happens to be rightfully man and woman. The city councilor who claims to be the role model for all gays needs to stop pushing her agenda and trying to shove her agenda down the throats of the community. Yes, the city and county resident's have been tolerant and silent about expressing thier real feelings about this subject matter. Yet, if the gay community continues to pushing thier agenda down thier throats, then, it is a matter of time that you will see tyranny and conflict. Who is Representative Egoff anyways?

Kate Sjostrand

You are personally the reason that putting equality to a vote is never a good idea. [wink]
So tired of the right wing zealots whining about some agenda being shoved down their throats. Yes, some day you will NOT be able to legally discriminate against people based on their sexuality or gender identity. I'm sorry if this is hurtful to you, but I assure you that Santa Fe has many wonderful mental health therapists that I know would be more than willing to help you through this (for a nominal fee, of course).

Steve Harbour

Once again Santa Fe joins the "Me Too" crowd and or smoke screen instead of sticking to business that effects a larger subset than 2%. Why not demand that the catholic church ordain women and let priests marry too?

GP Herbert

Marisa, Again!

George Geder

What are we really saying here? Is there an elephant in the room?

Mayor Coss wants to walk down the isle with his daughter and to give her to the partner of her choice. Isn't that choice endowed by her civil rights?

Are we saying that same-sex couples are NOT to have the same civil rights as the rest of us? Forget the statutes and the wording contained in them for a moment.

We are talking about our families, friends, co-workers, and citizens of our communities.

Are we going to look in the eyes of our loved ones and say "You know I love you, ... but I can't let you get married here in Santa Fe. I gotta wait until someone tells me to."

More to the point, we either want this resolution to happen or not.
Let our voices speak to that.

This issue is a Civil Rights issue with the same weight as other forms of discrimination. Do you see the elephant?

Steve Martinez

The opinion of the City Attorney is that the statutes regarding marriage are gender neutral.

If you look at the statutes, chapter 40, you see that instead of referring to the married couple as partners, they are referred to as husband and wife.

In order for the statutes to be gender neutral, the words husband and wife would have to be changed to partners, or the words husband and wife would have to be defined such that a woman could be a husband and a man could be a wife.

Joe Montoya

Let the citizens of New Mexico vote on this issue. It is a too important issue that has to be resolve through the ballot box. We cannot permit those who are in favor of this gay issue make the determination for the rest of us. Coss seems to jump into any issue that gives him recognition as well as a few others!

Kate Sjostrand

You really think that a minority group fighting for equality under the law should have that equality put to a public vote? Oh, wait, you're part of the oppressive majority that wishes to continue their discriminatory practices ... so of course it makes sense you want a vote.

Lyle Jackson

Said it before and I'll say it again......really?

This is really what they're up to? Now, I'm all for gay marriage.....but the city council should be focusing on our schools, fixing pot holes and our police problem. Not creating their own autonomous city nation within a larger state. Gotta play by the rules, because if not, those same courts can undo everything.

So please, City Councillors, focus on those city issues. Like our terrible public school system, so that when the rest of the state comes around and gay marriage is finally ok'd, couples (regardless of gender) can raise children here who are not illiterate.

Daniel Werwath

might want to get a basic understanding of city government. the city of santa fe has no control over the school district which incorporates areas outside of the city limits and is governed by an independent elected board, while the city in fact does have a mandate to uphold the basic civil rights of all its citizens as outlined in the city charter.

Ann Maes

Thank you for that comment. Whatever needs to happen to get this passed and settled. It's prejudice not to accept the rights of gay men and women to be who the are. Stop playing God, you don't know how!

Mary Bonney

thank you to Mayor Coss and Councilwoman Bushee - great leadership and a great move forward for everyone!!! I'm a proud Santa Fean today!

Ann Maes

I am with you on that one![wink]

Andrew Lucero

Gay marriage?-- Really?--Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that something that's usually decided by the Legislature and NOT the City Council?-- Doesn't our fair city have far more pressing and important issues to deal with?

I wish our Mayor and the rest of the City Council, would spend more time doing their jobs and addressing the real problems our city faces instead of wasting time and money by picking a fight in the name of political correctness and entering an arena they have ultimately no authority over!

Kate Sjostrand

In this state, this issue isn't "usually decided" via any mechanism, as that assertion indicates historical resolution.


I think it's funny this civil rights violation is even being debated. This country was founded on separation of church & state. Why is one religion able to dictate to everyone, their beliefs on marriage? Being a Native American, I'm not able to make everyone in NM nor the country follow my religious beliefs legally, so why should I or anyone else who does not believe in Christianity be subject to their rules legally? I'm not afraid of your "Christian Hell" because I don't believe in it, my religion is much older, & was given by the Creator not the "son". Guess we got it right the first time. Thank you Mayor Coss for standing up to these Religious Bullies!! Stay Strong n may the Creator Bless you n your fight!!

Ann Maes

Totally agree, Native Americans were killed over their faith. If we would obey the laws of nature and live in harmony, we'd be in a better place now!


Mayor Coss why are you trying to go around the law for your own agenda? A bill was discussed in the legislature and did not pass. The people don't want it...

Ana June

"The people" haven't even had a chance to weigh in on the matter, so how you can conclude that they (we) don't want it?


"the People" elect the legislators who represent them at the legislature. That is the basis for my conclusion. We call them and state our views and positions.

Ana June

Yeah, that's what I thought you meant. The ultimate naivete. Too bad it doesn't actually work that way.


The way it works even in this case is that our political leaders don't work for the people they work for themselves and special interest groups!!! Mayor Coss has no business doing what he is doing. Why do you call names, can't you use your intellect or do you operate on pure emotion???

Ana June

"The way it works even in this case is that our political leaders don't work for the people they work for themselves and special interest groups!!!" Which is exactly what I was saying in my response to your initial post in which you asserted that the opposite of what you just said ABOVE is true! So which is it? Bottom line, "the people" haven't had a chance to VOTE on this issue, so there's no rational way you can assert that "the people" don't want it. Period. And that, my friend, is intellect NOT emotion. (And to clarify, I didn't call you naive, I called your belief system the ultimate in naivete. There's a distinct difference.)

Ana June

I think it's crucial to note, as well, that Coss is not acting on behalf of "special interest groups" in this case for the following reason: Allowing same sex marriage does NOTHING to violate the rights of those in heterosexual relationships. NOTHING. At all. When a politician caves to a special interest, they are making sweeping policy decisions that affect a larger population of people than those for whom the ruling is designed. This is not the same beast. And don't even bring up the religious morals argument--that falls flat based on the whole church/state convention. Coss is siding with equal rights for all, and that is the side of justice, kindness, and truth.


The truth is that same sex relationships go against the laws of nature. No children can be born without an outside influence. No matter what you say or feel you cannot change that fact!!!

Ana June

In our culture, marriage is about more than procreation. It's about legal protection as well. This is largely what same-sex couples are asking for, and what right do you or anyone else have to deny this to them? Your intolerance is deeply unattractive. And very sad.


Hm...let's see. First there is the fact that two nation-wide polls in recent months have shown Americans favor gay marriage - in the majority. The most recent was just published Monday, 3/18:

And then there is a more regional New Mexico pull conducted, albeit online, by KOAT showing 70% of the 3468 (and counting) responders favor gay marriage.

So please, tell me me again how the people do not want this.


This is a cut and paste from the article you posted:

"The Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage next week, and nearly two-thirds of all Americans say the matter should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution, not with each state making its own laws."

From that: What business is it for Mayor of a small city to try to force the issue??? He is overstepping his authority!!!


I think this paper by James W. Skillen from the Center for Public Justice's web site is really good. He makes some really valid points on the subject. People should read this!!!$1178

Evette Montano

The statistics are tainted and you know that.


If the definition of marriage is not based on natural law, how can you define it that will not allow other groups to claim civil rights violations. Like one man marring two women, or a person wanting to marry another person under the age of 18??

Comment deleted.
Todd Cardwell

Is that in the U.S. or even the NM Constitution, to ask a religious person for guidance? I think not. And actually would be un-constitutional. Our Constitutions trumps some old book.

Comment deleted.
Steve Salazar

The Bible has lots of statements regarding homosexuality, the State has none. The State does have the 14th Amendment which provides for equal protection.


Kinda hard to imagine that gay marriage is destructive to society considering it has been legal in NM for as long as anyone can remember and we didn't even realize it!

Pierce Knolls

In today's editorial ( ) the New Mexican seems to suggest that Governor Martinez should consult with the new Pope about the minimum wage and drivers licenses for illegals. I wonder if the New Mexican thinks Mayor Coss should consult with the Pope about gay marriage?

Kate Sjostrand

getting the old "Francis bump" can't hurt anything, can it? hehe [rolleyes]

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