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Largest New Mexico county gives same-sex licenses following Albuquerque judge's ruling

BY JERI CLAUSING AND RUSSELL CONTRERAS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Dozens of gay couples gathered at a plaza in New Mexico's biggest city Tuesday to hear the words many once thought they would never hear: "With the power finally vested in me by the state of New Mexico, I now pronounce you married."

The ceremony came just a few hours after the county clerk opened her door to a line of more than 100 people waiting to get same-sex marriage licenses following an Albuquerque judge's declaration Monday that gay marriage was legal. Two other counties began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples last week, and three more said they planned to do the same.

Russell Garcia and Chayne Avery were among the couples who tied the knot in Albuquerque. They said it was the culmination of a long journey since they met in college 20 years ago — when there were hardly any gay characters on television, let alone the prospect that they could someday marry.

"Never thought I'd experience this," said an emotional Garcia, 40, after the ceremony.

The ruling by state district Judge Alan Malott came on the heels of a similar decision in Santa Fe and the decision by the county clerk in the southern New Mexico county of Dona Ana week to recognize same-sex couples. That means residents in the state's three largest counties can easily get same-sex marriage licenses locally.

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