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One at a Time, New Mexico County Clerks Change the Face of Marriage

Rose Griego (L) and partner Kim Kiel being married by Reverend Hollis Walker. Photo taken by Johann Klaassen.
Rose Griego (L) and partner Kim Kiel being married by Reverend Hollis Walker. Photo taken by Johann Klaassen.
August 30, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. – Many New Mexicans have a new civil right on the half-century anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington.

County clerks in at least six counties in the state have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Amber Royster, executive director of Equality New Mexico, sees a strong correlation between the two.

"There are lots of parallels of adversity that members in our community and the nation still face today between what's happening now versus what's happening 50 years ago,” she says.

“In his speech, when he talks about the ‘urgency of now,’ ultimately this all reminds us that we still have a lot of work left to do to win justice for all on this anniversary."

Royster says the combined populations of the six counties that are issuing marriage licenses in New Mexico represent more than half the population of the state.

She points out there is still a question of how these marriages will be viewed in the state's other 27 counties. Royster adds it is important to push for a statewide solution.

Kim Kiel and Rose Griego have been together for 10 years. For nearly three of those years they have been participating in an ACLU "freedom to marry" suit to allow same-sex marriage.

In March, they went to the Bernalillo County clerk's office and attempted to get married. At that time the application was only valid for a man and a woman. On Tuesday they went to Santa Fe.

"It was very exciting for us to be able to go down to the courthouse and actually get a license this time and not be turned down,” Kiel says. “We brought along our own officiant and bunch of friends and got our license and got married right away."

Kiel and Griego say there are some 1,300 rights and benefits they are now allowed as married partners. One of those concerns health decisions. Another has to do with leaving property to one another.

The two have decided they will refer to each other as wives.

"It's universally understood – the term – and I think that's one of the unseen benefits,” Kiel says. “Now we can just go anywhere, say we're making a reservation for dinner and say 'My wife and I are going to have an anniversary dinner.' And that will be completely understood."

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM