US: New Mexico lesbian couple denied marriage licence file lawsuit against state

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A lesbian couple in the county of Sandoval, New Mexico, has filed a lawsuit after being denied a marriage licence.

Carolyn VanHousen and Gail Gering, have been in a relationship for eighteen years, and have attempted to marry in the past, but as the issue of equal marriage has been thrown into flux in the state due to a judge’s ruling on the issue, the couple were surprised to be turned down again on Wednesday.

The New Mexico constitution does not expressively prohibit same-sex couples from marrying but no recognition of same-sex relationships previously existed within the state.

State District Judge Alan Malott handed down the shock ruling on Monday, which stated that equal marriage should be made legal, as he ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriages is a form of sexual discrimination. While supporters were pleased at the ruling, many said it was unexpected.

When Gering and VanHousen approached the county clerk though, they were denied the marriage licence. “We asked the clerk for a license. She politely, but resolutely, said no,” said Gering.

Despite several counties now issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples, Sandoval County, where the couple live, still is not. Aside from being optimistic, the couple said they were not realistically expecting to be issued with a marriage licence yesterday.

With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the state, the couple have filed a lawsuit in order to push Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni, to issue the licence.

The county clerk for Doña Ana County, Lynn Ellins, released a statement last Wednesday saying that New Mexico’s marriage laws were “gender neutral” and to ban same-sex couples from marrying violated the United States Constitution and he went onto say that “I see no reason to make committed couples in Dona Ana County wait another minute to marry.”