County clerk’s resignation casts area in limelight

Editor’s note: This is the No. 2 news story of the year as determined by PNT staff.

By Alisa Boswell

CMI staff writer

aboswell@pntonline.com

Roosevelt County made news in December when its top two officials in the county clerk’s office resigned over New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruling same-sex marriages legal in the state.

Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins resigned the day after the decision, say their personal and Christian beliefs were in conflict with the law.

Carpenter said she must obey God’s laws, which for her supersedes all other laws.

On Monday, newly appointed clerk DeAun Searl issued the county’s first same-sex license Stephanie Reynolds, 36, and Annie Garza, 46, who have been together the last eight years, raising Reynolds’ four children.

Searl, who had been with the clerk’s office a little more than five years, was appointed county clerk by the Roosevelt County Commission.

“My opinion does not matter, my opinion is irrelevant,” said Searl about the state’s same-sex marriage ruling and any other laws. “I was appointed to do a job and I’m going to do that job to the best of my ability.”

Searl will serve as county clerk until the next general election in November 2014, which at that point, she will have to run for office to retain the seat.

New Mexico joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing marriage between same-sex couples.

The issue was ignited in the state when Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellis began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in August. Eight of New Mexico’s 33 counties followed suit in granting licenses to gay couples.

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.

Several local Republican lawmakers have plans to support a statewide constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, which state Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, plans to introduce at the upcoming January legislative session.

Among these legislators are Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, and Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

Woods said an attempt was made last year to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, but the issue failed to gain traction with other lawmakers.

 

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