By Christina Calloway
CMI staff writer
Roosevelt County Clerk Donna Carpenter resigned Friday morning, a day after a State Supreme Court ruling was issued legalizing gay marriage, because she said she must obey God’s law, which supersedes all other laws for her.
Deputy Clerk Janet Collins also resigned Friday over the same issue.
Carpenter, 61, who was elected county clerk in 2012, said it has been a great nine years of working in the clerk’s office, and though she’ll miss serving Roosevelt County, she said she couldn’t acknowledge a law that went against her personal beliefs.
“I can’t issue (same-sex marriage licenses) and have a clear conscience,” Carpenter said Friday.
Carpenter felt she was elected on her principles and as a person who stands by their word.
“I felt like I’d be letting down the majority of people who voted for me,” said Carpenter about issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“I don’t mean any ill toward the gay people at all,” Carpenter said, “I just want to follow my beliefs.”
Collins, Carpenter’s predecessor, cited her personal beliefs on marriage. After 21 years of working in that office, she was set to retire next month and said she’ll miss serving the people.
“I’m not representing anyone but myself,” Collins said. “My personal beliefs are strong and I don’t want to cause problems for the county.”
Roosevelt County manager Charlene Webb said the clerk’s office is closed until the Roosevelt County Commission meets Monday to hire a replacement.
“Hopefully Monday we’ll be back up and back running,” Webb said.
Curry County Clerk Rosalie Riley said she was shocked when she heard about Carpenter’s resignation, but also said that Carpenter had previously mentioned she would resign if the same-sex marriage law went into effect.
“I understand her principle behind it,” Riley said. “I understand her beliefs.”
Riley herself has no intentions of resigning her post, and plans to continue to uphold the directive from the state Supreme Court.
As of Friday afternoon, no gay or lesbian couples sought a marriage license from the Curry County or Roosevelt County offices.
Meanwhile, other rural counties began issuing gay marriage licenses following the Thursday ruling, which came after county officials asked the high court to clarify the law and establish a uniform state policy on gay marriage.
In northwestern New Mexico, the San Juan County Clerk’s Office gave its first marriage license to a same-sex couple Thursday afternoon, the Farmington Daily-Times reported.
Three hours later, Aztec women Luciana Velasquez and Deann Toadlena were married under Christmas lights at Orchard Park in downtown Farmington.
“We’ve been waiting for seven years. It’s the best day of my life,” said Toadlena, who plans to change her last name to Velasquez. “Everything I wanted was given to me today.”
Historically, county clerks in New Mexico have denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples because state statutes include a marriage license application with sections for male and female applicants.
However, the state’s more populous counties this fall began issuing licenses on their own and in response to lower court rulings. A few rural counties also followed suit, but most of the smaller counties were awaiting a final decision from the high court.
Despite the ruling, gay marriage opponents are vowing the fight is not over.
State Sen. William Sharer, a Farmington Republican, filed a Joint Resolution Friday that proposes an amendment to Article 2 of the New Mexico state Constitution to define the right of marriage as a union only between one man and one woman.
“If they are saying it is unconstitutional, we need to make it constitutional,” he said.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature repeatedly has turned down proposals for a constitutional amendment to allow voters to decide whether to legalize gay marriage.
Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican and who has opposed same-sex marriage, said she would have preferred to see voters, not the courts, decide the issue. But she urged New Mexicans to “respect one another in their discourse” and turn their focus to other issues facing the state.
“As we move forward, I am hopeful that we will not be divided, as we must come together to tackle very pressing issues, like reforming education and growing our economy, in the weeks and months ahead,” Martinez said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.