By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Jose Garcia said Thursday was a proud day to be a New Mexican.
As a gay man, the 22-year-old Garcia was ecstatic when he got word of the New Mexico Supreme Court’s decision to legalize marriage between same-sex couples, declaring it unconstitutional to deny a marriage license to gay and lesbian couples.
“Though I don’t plan on staying in New Mexico for the rest of my life, I am and will always be a proud New Mexican,” said Garcia, a sales associate, “and it meant so much that my home state may not be the first but is in the forefront of a movement that is so close to me.”
New Mexico joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing marriage among gay and lesbian couples.
Janet Collins of the Roosevelt County Clerk’s office said a change must be made to the current marriage forms the office has, and procedures will not change until the state gives official direction.
“We’re waiting for direction,” Collins said. “We don’t want to step out and do something crazy before anything’s done.”
Garcia feels the court’s decision will help his parents warm up to the idea of same-sex couples getting married because it is being accepted by law.
But not all citizens are ready to accept something they consider not traditional.
Roosevelt County rancher Sharon Davis said she believes in her Christian values.
“Marriage is a traditional value and should remain between a man and a woman,” Davis said, “And I’m disappointed in the decision. Most Republicans stand with traditional biblical values and with traditional marriages and I’m not afraid to say it and I’m not ashamed to say it.”
In fact, Davis feels the government is interfering where it shouldn’t.
“Christians are being discriminated against and our rights are being taken away,” she said.
Justice Edward L. Chavez said in a ruling that none of New Mexico’s marriage statutes specifically prohibits same-sex marriages, but the state’s laws as a whole have prevented gay and lesbian couples from marrying.
De Baca County Clerk Rosalie Gonzales Joiner said she’s been instructed to issue marriage licenses to all couples, despite issues with the current forms.
“Currently we do not have gender-neutral forms,” Joiner said.
In order to temporarily alleviate the problem, Joiner said she’s been told to mark out the portions of the form that say “male and female,” and “bride and groom.”
“My instructions are to (mark out those spaces) until we get our gender-neutral forms,” Joiner said.
The issue was ignited in the state when Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellis began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in August. Since then, eight of New Mexico’s 33 counties have been granting licenses to gay couples.
State Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said the court’s decision didn’t surprise him Thursday.
“You have a Supreme Court that interprets things in a more liberal fashion,” Ingle said.
He expects legislation will be proposed to reverse the decision when the legislature meets in January, but he feels this is an issue that New Mexicans want to vote on.
“I think the voters get involved in it and want to express strong opinions and want to do that in the voting booth,” Ingle said.
Portales Mayor Sharon King said, “I think it’s a good thing that the Supreme Court has a standard ruling across the state so that counties no longer have to make decisions.”
Business owner Elliott Fite said while he considers himself a financial conservative, he says he’s socially liberal.
“Personally I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Fite said, “but I don’t think the government should get involved with any personal aspect of peoples’ lives. So it would be hypocritical for me to say ‘the government to ban this but don’t ban this.”