Baker's dozen of same-sex licenses issued

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Thirteen same-sex couples have picked up marriage licenses from the Valencia County Clerk's office since County Clerk, Peggy Carabajal began issuing them nine days ago.

Tomé residents, Kevin and Brandon, who wouldn't give their last name, were one of the couples.

They picked up their marriage license at the clerk's office on Aug. 28. They were married later that day by their priest during an informal dinner at Teofilos Restaurante in Los Lunas.

"Since we've been together for 20 years, it's not for validity, because we see ourselves as being perfectly valid, but the federal and state benefits that go along with marriage are going to be applicable to us," said Brandon. "Things like medical, visitation and authorization as well as tax benefits, insurance benefits, that sort of thing."

Two years ago, Kevin had an accident on a horse and was hospitalized, but his brother wouldn't allow Brandon to make any medical decisions for Kevin.

"Because I was unconscious, I wasn't able to say who I wanted to be in charge, so my next of kin automatically was put in charge," said Kevin. "So, it's nice to have legal protection for Brandon."

On Aug. 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service ruled that same-sex couples will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

Most of the couples who came to the County clerk's office declined to give their full names to the news media for fear of negative responses.

One lesbian couple said they were surprised Valencia County would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They thought it was the least likely county to do so, they said.

"We haven't had any problems with neighbors or the community at large," said Brandon. "In June, we had a commitment ceremony at our church, and most the neighbors attended the reception and were very supportive and happy about it."

It was important to them to get married within their community.

"Kevin and I said very early on, we didn't want to have a commitment ceremony unless it was approved by the Episcopal church," Brandon said. "So that it actually meant something, and we didn't want to go to Spain or Connecticut to get a marriage license, because to us it wouldn't mean anything unless it came from where we live."

Valencia County was one of six counties to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"It's nice not to be thought of as second-class citizens," said Kevin. "It's nice to know that what we have is as legal as what everyone else has."

Carabajal decided to issue licenses to same-sex couples because the state Constitution upholds equality and is against sex discrimination, Carabajal said.

"I'm just following the law," she said. "There is equality of rights; I don't think we should turn anybody away."

Brandon and Kevin are grateful she did.

Her office has received more than 30 phone calls expressing appreciation and support for her decision, but some have expressed disapproval.

"I know it's a sin," said Martin Olivas who visited the clerk's office the day Carabajal began issuing same-sex marriage licenses. "I came to pray with her, and ask her if she realizes that what she's doing is wrong."

Olivas was accompanied by two women, Misty McFadden and Amy Ahlgrim along with several children.

"As it stands now, it isn't the will of the people," said Ahlgrim.

She came to the county courthouse with Olivas to pray for the county clerk, she said.

Brandon said judgment of others should be left to God.

"God made me this way, and God doesn't make mistakes, so, who am I to question God," he said.

Kevin and Brandon don't see same-sex marriage as taking anything away from marriages between men and women.

"It's not like we're advocating taking a benefit away from them to give to us," Brandon said. "We just want the same sense of security that other people have."

On Aug. 30, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Republican lawmakers are suing to stop the Doña Ana County clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. The lawmakers are saying the clerk exceeded his authority.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.