Judge Upholds Ruling for Los Alamos County Clerk to Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples
Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover, left, issues a marriage license today to Maria Thibodeau, center, and her partner Janet Newton after being ordered to do so by District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson during a court hearing this morning. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Cameras roll as the judge enters the courtroom this morning to hear the case involving the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos County Attorney Rebecca Ehler, Junior Attorney Katie Thwaites and Assistant County Attorney Dan Gonzales look on at right as television cameras and reporters surround County Clerk Sharon Stover looking for reaction after this morning's ruling. "I will uphold the judge's order," Stover said. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post
The courtroom erupted in applause this morning in the Los Alamos Justice Center.
District Judge Sheri Raphaelson upheld her previous ruling ordering Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Stover denied Los Alamos school teachers Janet Newton and Maria Thibodeau a marriage license last week. They hired attorneys Brian Egolf and John Day of Egolf + Ferlic + Day in Santa Fe to represent them in court action against Stover.
Stover explained that her denial was based on the actual language contained in State statutes.
"The statements contained on the marriage license that is issued by the clerk's office, as set forth in state law, requires a male and female, or bride and groom applicant," she said.
Judge Sheri Raphaelson did not agree with the arguments presented by Los Alamos County Attorney Rebecca Ehler on behalf of Stover.
"State statute section 40-1-19 actually criminalizes a clerk failing to grant a marriage license to a couple who meet the requirements ... it even calls for removal from office...," Raphaelson said. "In section 40-1-10, it says the clerk shall issue a marriage license ... and shall means shall."
Following the judge's ruling, Newton and Thibodeau traveled to the Clerk's Office at the Municipal Building where Stover issued them a marriage license.
"We are honoring the judges decision," Stover said. "This case was the first opportunity to bring it up relative to the form, which is the issue."
The marriage license form has not been updated since 1961, Stover said, adding that maybe now the path will be clearer to bring the issue before the legislature and the Supreme Court.
"We want a uniform decision that all 33 clerks in the state can follow," Stover said.
Los Alamos is now the seventh county in New Mexico issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
Attorneys John Day, left, and Brian Egolf review documents prior to court getting underway this morning. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Janet Newton, left, and her partner Maria Thibodeau, both teach Humanities at Los Alamos High School. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson listens to arguments from attorneys before upholding her previous ruling ordering Los Alamos County Clerk Sharon Stover to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos County Attorney Rebecca Ehler, representing County Clerk Sharon Stover, presents her arguments to the judge. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Attorney Brian Egolf makes his case to the judge. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Attorneys John Day, left, and Brian Egolf shake hands following the ruling in favor of their clients in court today. "We are pleased that Judge Raphaelson ruled for another victory of marriage equality in New Mexico today," Day said. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Janet Newton, left, and her partner Maria Thibodeau, express their excitement following the judge's ruling to allow them to obtain a marriage license in Los Alamos County. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
A crowd lined up to attend the emotionally charged same-sex marriage license hearing at District Court this morning. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com