Commissioners opposed to same-sex marriage

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Curry County Commissioner Caleb Chandler wants to send a message to the state Legislature: Curry County is against same-sex marriage.

Three other commissioners are supporting him.

Chandler is sponsoring a resolution opposing Senate Bill 12 and House Bill 21, which would make domestic partnership legal in New Mexico.

Chandler plans to offer his resolution when the county commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday. County meetings are usually held on Tuesday but was moved because of Monday’s holiday.

The resolution affirms prohibition of domestic partnership in the county.

“I just think that we need to stay with the traditional family values that we have in Curry County,” Chandler said.

“I don’t know what the vote will be, but I think the community thinks that way because that’s what’s been explained to me by (several) citizens.”

Former commissioner Tim Ashley also plans to ask commissioners Wednesday to draft a letter to legislators opposing domestic partnership.

And he said he wanted to remind the commission of a 2004 resolution prohibiting domestic partnership that passed while he was a commissioner.

“This is a new commission. None of the members were on the commission at the time when that resolution was passed,” he said.

“I definitely wanted to make them aware of it and also request a letter of support.”

Other commissioners cited heavy community opposition to same-sex marriage as the reason for their position on the resolution.

“It’s talked about (in the community) and in fact I haven’t talked to anybody (who) is in support of the proposed legislation. Everybody’s in support of the ordinance against (domestic partnership),” newly-elected Commissioner Wendell Bostwick said Monday.

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval also said his constituents are against the proposed legislation.

“I’ve talked to the constituents and every single one of them has (shared Commissioner Chandler’s position). I do plan to vote in support of it, not because those are my personal views, which they are, but I’m voting in support of it because it’s what (the constituents want),” Sandoval said.

Commissioner Frank Blackburn said he too will support Chandler.

“I’m going to vote the way I feel my district feels about this resolution. I believe the people in my district believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Blackburn said.

Three of five commissioner’s votes are needed to pass the resolution.

County Clerk Connie Jo Lyman said because of the similar resolution adopted by the board of commissioners three years ago, Wednesday’s version is mostly a symbolic reaffirmation.

The 2004 resolution, which prevents the clerk’s office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, still stands and the new resolution doesn’t change that.

“It doesn’t do a bit of good, it’s just taking a stand that Curry County and the Curry County Commission doesn’t support domestic partnership,” she said.

“It’s just a statement saying we don’t want this in Curry County and, in essence, in New Mexico.”

Proposed legislation would require county clerks in the state to sell a domestic partnership agreement to same-sex couples in addition to traditional marriage licenses and would trump county and municipal ordinances on the issue.

“Morally I do not support the legislation (but) professionally the county clerks throughout New Mexico are taking a neutral position,” Lyman said.

During the last legislative session, domestic partnership legislation was narrowly defeated, Lyman said.

Proposal to move commission meetings:

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said he also plans to propose Wednesday to move commission meetings to the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Library, across the street from the courthouse.

The location is currently used as a multi-purpose meeting room and is home to city commission meetings.

Sandoval said using the city’s facility will make meetings more accessible to citizens than the courthouse, where there are several sets of stairs leading to the commission room, and there will be more room for guests and attendees.

“I faced a lot of opposition during the last year because some of the commissioners felt that we had to meet in a county building or because they said ‘that’s the way it’s always been’,” he said.

“I ran for the county commission because I felt that the city and county needed to work closer together. The citizens of Clovis are citizens of Curry County, so hopefully I can get this passed… And it will make it more comfortable for our constituents… We know each other and we like each other but that doesn’t mean that we have to sit in each other’s laps.”

Other items on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting:

• Presentation regarding the services of Eastern Plains Council of Governments by EPCOG Executive Director Nick Brady.

• Presentation regarding La Casa de Buena Salud, by Chief Executive Officer Seferino Montano.