Dozens of gay and lesbian couples arrived in this rural town Friday to get married after a county clerk announced she would grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but the offer was soon revoked.
The Sandoval County clerk's office granted licenses to 26 same-sex couples before New Mexico Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid issued a late afternoon opinion that the licenses were "invalid under state law."
The clerk's office stopped issuing licenses and told the newlywed couples their licenses were invalid. A crowd outside the office reacted with boos and shouts as a deputy clerk read the attorney general's legal advice.
"This is not OK! We deserve rights!" Carolyn Ford shouted, angrily pointing a finger while holding a bouquet of red and white roses.
More than 60 couples had signed up for applications after County Clerk Victoria Dunlap decided to grant the licenses.
Dunlap said she made the decision after County Atty. David Mathews determined New Mexico law is unclear on the issue. He said state law defines marriage as a contract between parties but does not mention gender.
"It's going to be across the country and so we wanted to be ahead of the curve," Dunlap said.
Outside the courthouse, two preachers spent the day conducting marriage ceremonies.
"When we heard the news this morning, we knew we couldn't wait. We had to come down here," said Jenifer Albright of Albuquerque, about 18 miles south, who exchanged vows with partner Anne Shultz.
Dunlap's decision came a little more than a week after San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to thousands of gay couples in a direct challenge to California law.
A spokeswoman said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, was opposed to same-sex marriage.
"The governor has always been a champion for human rights. He supports equal rights and opposes all forms of discrimination. However, he is opposed to same-sex marriage," said Marsha Catron.