A county clerk and chief deputy clerk in New Mexico resigned from their positions after the state's Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last week.
Roosevelt County Clerk Donna Carpenter and Deputy Clerk Janet Collins resigned from their posts early Friday morning, one day after the state's Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from marrying violates the state's constitutional right to equal protection.
Although an official reason for the clerks' resignation has not been provided, county commissioners have told the Associated Press and other media outlets that both Collins and Carpenter made their intention of quitting clear, should same-sex marriage be legalized in the state.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Bill Cathey told AP that the two had made it apparent that they would quit "rather than be associated with that … she told us in the past that's what she would do," he said. "... I am personally very disappointed in the decision of the judges, and I don't blame our clerk for doing what she did."
The women, had they kept their positions, would have been responsible for issuing same-sex marriage licenses to couples in their county, which is located on the state's border with Texas.
Commissioner Jake Lopez, a Democrat, added to the ABQ Journal that the clerk and her deputy also told him their personal values interfered with their distributing of same-sex marriage licenses. "[Carpenter] said she would rather resign because she wasn't going to provide any licenses to people who marry like that."
"The county is going along with whatever the Supreme Court decides," Lopez said. "It isn't our thing, it's their doing, so we have to abide by the law."
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex marriage in New Mexico was a violation of the state constitution's equal protection clause. New Mexico never had a definitive ban on same-sex marriage, but its marriage license forms and a state statute made reference to "male" and "female" participants in matrimony. Earlier this year, some rogue county clerks began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, prompting multiple lawsuits from lawmakers and other groups who argued the clerks were overstepping their political bounds.
Ultimately, the state Supreme Court agreed to make a final judgment on the legality of same-sex marriage in New Mexico after all of the state's 33 counties filed a petition seeking clarification on the law. The Supreme Court's unanimous 31-page ruling issued Thursday said that the state is "constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law."
Although gay activist groups in the state lauded the Supreme Court's decision, supporters of traditional marriage have vowed to continue fighting for a ban on same-sex marriage. Following last week's court ruling, State Sen. Bill Sharer (R-Farmington) said that when the legislature reconvenes in January he will propose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, and if the amendment is adopted by state legislature it will then be voted on by New Mexico's residents.
"We shall continue the debate," Sharer said in a statement following the ruling. "Until the people accept it, it is not settled." Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, also said in a statement that she would prefer the issue of same-sex marriage be left to the voters, not the courts.