Prompted by a public inquiry, Sandoval County clerk Victoria Dunlap examined New Mexico's marriage laws and decided that she was bound by their language to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So on February 20, amid a firestorm of controversy, the Republican issued 66 licenses to gay and lesbian couples before the state attorney general intervened that same day.
Dunlap has since vowed to continue the practice and is currently fighting a temporary restraining order. Her crusade hasn't sat well with a number of people in New Mexico, including her fellow Republicans. "Other than assassination, all we can do is censure her, "said Richard Gibbs, of the Sandoval County Republican Party's central committee, on April 20.
Dunlap decided to forgo reelection as clerk to run for county commissioner, but on June 1 she was defeated in the Republican primary by a nearly 3-1 ratio. The longtime artist and 17-year resident of New Mexico spoke to The Advocate about the licenses, local Republicans, and what she plans to do when her term expires in January.--Christoper Lisotta
Why did you decide to issue marriage licenses?
I had a person call and ask if we did perform same-sex marriages. And I said as of yet we had not but I would look into it. I had one of my staff members ask an attorney, and he said that we had to issue the licenses. We could not prohibit anyone based upon sex.
Were you surprised by the reaction from people who oppose it?
I didn't realize it was going to get this big. I'm a very open-minded person, and I always have been, and to me, it was just doing the right thing.
Some Republicans in Sandoval County have said some pretty ugly things.
I have been attacked by them since the very beginning …