Supreme Court declined to hear anti-gay photographer’s appeal

New_Mexico flagThe U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a New Mexico case challenging the state’s anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

The case involves a lesbian couple planning their wedding reception. Elaine Photography of Albuquerque turned down the couple’s request to shoot the wedding, saying they work only “traditional weddings.”

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state’s anti-discrimination law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation “in the same way as if it had refused to photograph a wedding between people of different races.”

While ruling that the New Mexico Human Rights Act ensures “businesses offering services to the general public do not discriminate against protected classes of people,” it acknowledges “businesses retain their First Amendment rights to express their religious or political beliefs.”

That free speech would would allow a business to post on a website or in advertising that it opposes same-sex marriage, but it complies with nondiscrimination laws.

The photography business appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the court declined to hear the case next session, so the New Mexico Supreme Court ruling stands.

—  David Taffet

Santa Fe elects gay mayor

Javier GonzalesOn Tuesday, Santa Fe elected out candidate Javier Gonzales, 47, as mayor. Two of the city’s eight city council members are lesbian. So was one of his two opponents in the mayoral race.

Gonzales served four terms as chairman of New Mexico’s Democratic Party and was appointed to the Board of Regents of New Mexico State University by former Gov. Bill Richardson.

He has two daughters.

Santa Fe’s city races are publicly funded. Each candidate was given $60,000 for their campaigns.

Gonzales will be sworn in on Monday.

—  David Taffet

New Mexico becomes newest marriage equality state


County Clerk Lynn Ellins

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Thursday that marriage equality would apply statewide. That makes New Mexico the 17th marriage equality state.

Eight of the state’s 33 counties were already issuing marriage licenses. That began in August when Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins said his reading of New Mexico marriage law does not specify gender. Soon after he began issuing licenses, several other county clerks followed suit. Other counties began issuing marriage licenses when ordered by county courts.

The county clerks asked the Supreme Court for a ruling on same-sex marriage because they knew having a patchwork of counties issuing licenses wasn’t tenable.

The Supreme Court ruled county clerks must issue marriage licenses regardless of gender.

Despite the possibility of marriage equality being overturned by the court, 1,400 couples already have married in New Mexico since August.

—  David Taffet

New Mexico: We won’t let the Rio Grande River flow into Texas anymore

rio-grandeSANTA FE — No water for you. That’s the message the state of New Mexico delivered to Texas in a statement Friday, saying it will no longer allow the Rio Grande River to continue its course into the Lone Star State.

“We were just sitting around, wishing we had something to do when we came up with this idea,” said New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. “We’ve never liked Texans anyway, so we always think it’s fun to come up with ways to tick them off. They come over here to our ski resorts, flashing their big money and ordering us around. Well, we’ll see how they like this.”

Engineers for the state say they will change the river’s course, diverting it to California instead. Why California?

“They’ve been really good to us, what with them making movies here and all,” Martinez said. “We thought this would be a nice way to say ‘thanks for your business.’”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared perplexed when aides told him of New Mexico’s plans.

“Isn’t that a federal issue?” Perry asked. “New Mexico is a foreign country, isn’t it? That’s where all those illegals are coming from.”

After his staff schooled the governor on basic geography and history, Perry reportedly slammed his fist on the table and screamed, “Dagnabit.”

Without water from the Rio Grande, Texas would suffer severe economic, political and social hardships, officials say. The river supplies water to dozens of Texas cities, irrigates millions of acres and forms the border with Mexico.

“Not like it does us any good,” weighed in Sarah Palin, who drove her bus into Austin to console Perry. “Those Mexicans just traipse across the border like it’s not even there.”

Palin took a few days off from her “No Ambition” tour to assist Perry in devising a plan to combat New Mexico’s actions, telling Perry she was “locked and loaded.”

“We’re not gonna put up with this from those people,” Perry said. “Sarah told me I should move Texas National Guard troops to the New Mexico border to show ‘em we’re ready to march into their capital at Mexico City.”

At that point, Palin whispered into Perry’s ear.

“Oh, my bad,” Perry said. “I mean their capital at El Paso.”

—  Steve Ramos

3 states vie to become next with marriage equality


Gov. Neil Abercrombie

The governor said he would call a special session to consider a marriage equality bill.

No, not Rick Perry, and no, not in Texas.

The governor is Neil Abercrombie and the state is Hawaii, where the idea of marriage equality began two decades ago and special sessions are called for constructive purposes. Abercrombie announced his intentions on his blog yesterday and posted the draft of the bill.

Hawaii currently has civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits as marriage on a state level but, since the Defense of Marriage Act ruling in June, are not equal on a federal level.

Baehr v. Lewin was filed in 1991 and the state Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples violated the Hawaiian constitution. A state law prohibiting same-sex marriage passed in 1994. That was found unconstitutional in 1996 but a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to a man and a woman passed in 1998.

In 2009, the first civil union bill passed in Hawaii. The Republican governor vetoed it. After Abercrombie, a Democrat, was elected in 2011, it passed again and he signed it. Now Hawaii may become the next marriage equality state.

That is, if New Mexico doesn’t beat them to it. Six New Mexico counties have started issuing marriage licenses in the last week, but yesterday, all 33 county clerks asked the state Supreme Court for a statewide ruling.

And in Illinois, where a marriage equality bill has been languishing since the beginning of the year, the American Civil Liberties Union hired former state Republican chair Pat Brady to lobby Republican legislators. Brady was forced from his position because of his pro-equality stance. The bill has already passed the state Senate and needs to pass in the House. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would sign the bill.

—  David Taffet

N.M. legislators may file challenge to marriage equality in Las Cruces

Las Cruces

Las Cruces, N.M.

Another 40 same-sex couples married in Dona Ana County, N.M. on Thursday, the second day County Clerk Lynn Ellins was issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.

While the county viewed the licenses as legal and the marriages as valid, it remained unclear what the status of those marriages was outside the county, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported, however, that about two dozen Republican legislators plans to file a lawsuit to stop the county clerk.

New Mexico marriage laws are gender neutral and there is no prohibition of same-sex marriage. Only divorce law mentions husband and wife. So, as in other marriage-inequality states, obtaining a divorce will be a problem.

Unclear is how the federal government will view these marriages since this is the only state where marriage-equality is not statewide.

But just as unclear is who would have standing to challenge the marriages. In San Francisco, when Mayor Gavin Newsom began performing same-sex weddings, the state stepped in and issued an injunction. In 2004, Sandoval County, just north of Albuquerque, issued more than 60 marriage licenses to same-sex couples before a court injunction stopped it after about a month and invalidated the marriages.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King announced he would not intervene. The governor also opposes same-sex marriage and said she would like the issued decided by voters. But she’s given no indication she will step in to stop the Ellins.

The Prop 8 ruling in June made it clear that for someone else to intervene, they would have to first convince a court that they had standing by having suffered some injury as a result of someone else getting married.

The state lawmakers plan to file a lawsuit claiming Ellins doesn’t have a right to change the law, only the legislature does. However, Ellins did not make or change the law. New Mexico law does not prohibit same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of a run for Santa Fe mayor, former New Mexico Democratic Party Chair Javier Gonzales came out as gay. And editorials in the state’s newspapers are running in favor of  and against other county clerks doing the same thing.

—  David Taffet

Same-sex marriage begins in southern New Mexico


County Clerk Lynn Ellins

The Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins in Las Cruses, N.M., began issuing marriage licenses on Wednesday. Ellins issued 40 licenses the first day.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that local churches began performing wedding ceremonies soon after the county started issuing licenses.

Unlike other states that do not have marriage equality, New Mexico state law does not specify that marriage is between a man and a woman. The state has no anti-gay marriage amendment.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he is not sure if state law allows same-sex marriages and asked county clerks to wait until the courts decide the issue. He said he would not interfere with Ellins’ decision but the marriages might be declared invalid once the case gets to the state Supreme Court.

Former governor Bill Richardson tried to pass a marriage equality law before leaving office but came up short by a few votes.

After Dona Ana County, many expected liberal Santa Fe to be the next county to begin issuing marriage certificates.

Las Cruces is about 30 miles north of El Paso on Interstate 10 and is the state’s second largest city.

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, wants the issue to go to a popular vote.

Below is a report from KRWG News, the public broadcasting station in El Paso and Las Cruces.

—  David Taffet

Santa Fe mayor, councilor say New Mexico already has marriage equality

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss

Mayor David Coss

New Mexico may already have marriage equality, because nothing in state law prohibits same-sex couples from marrying.

At least that’s according to Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and City Councilor Patti Bushee. Bushee is lesbian and Coss has a lesbian daughter.

Coss and Bushee attended a press conference this morning where City Attorney Geno Zamora released a legal memo saying:

• New Mexico’s laws do not define marriage as between a man and a woman, the definitions are gender-neutral;

• A statutory list of prohibited marriages does not list same-sex couples;

• Same-sex marriages from other states are already recognized by New Mexico law;

• To discriminate against same-sex couples would violate the New Mexico Constitution which requires equality under the law regardless of sex.

The mayor asked the City Council to pass a resolution at its next meeting on March 27, encouraging same-sex couples to encourage county clerks to issue them licenses.

In 2004, the Sandoval County Clerk issued 64 marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the attorney general ordered her to stop and declared those licenses invalid. Sandoval County is north of Albuquerque and west of Santa Fe.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Bushee expects the issue to come before the state Supreme Court.

Despite the city attorney’s memo, the Santa Fe County Clerk said she does not intend to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

—  David Taffet

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.




Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

New Mexico may recognize same-sex marriage

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says same-sex marriages performed elsewhere may be valid in his state.

“A comprehensive legal analysis by my office concludes that valid same-sex marriages in other states would likely be valid in New Mexico,” King said.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the opinion hasn’t been tested in court. However, an attorney general’s opinion carries quite a bit of weight.

New Mexico’s new governor, Susana Martinez, opposes same-sex marriage. Her predecessor, Bill Richardson, was unsuccessful getting a marriage-equality bill through the legislature.

Maryland’s attorney general has issued a similar ruling. New York and Rhode Island both recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

—  David Taffet