‘Do You Have a New Mexico Passport?’ Couple Have to Prove State Exists to Get Married

November 30, 2018 Updated: November 30, 2018

In New Mexico, it’s an old story. Confusion caused by the name of the state among fellow Americans has even spawned a catchphrase among geography-weary New Mexicans: “One of our 50 is missing.”

But when Gavin Clarkson, a former candidate for New Mexico secretary of state, went to apply for a marriage licence in Washington D.C., confusion over his identity reached another level, with the staff refusing to accept even his U.S. driver’s license as proof of identification.

Clarkson, who lives in Las Cruces, had gone to the  District of Columbia Courts Marriage Bureau on Nov. 20 with his then-fiancee to apply for a marriage license.

But, thinking that New Mexico was another country, the clerk insisted that Clarkson’s (all-American) driver’s license did not meet the criteria: he would have to provide an international passport.

Clarkson wrote on Facebook, “You know you are from flyover country when you are applying for a marriage license, give them your New Mexico driver’s license, and they come back and say ‘my supervisor says we cannot accept international driver’s licenses. Do you have a New Mexico passport?'”

He continued,  “They went back to a supervisor to check if New Mexico was a state … TWICE!”

Seeing the Funny Side

Fortunately for Clarkson, after about 20 minutes, the staff concluded that New Mexico was indeed a U.S. state—and completed his application.

The staff apologised.

The couple were annoyed at the time, but are now able to see the funny side.

Clarkson said, “The new Mrs. Clarkson thinks that the most hilarious part was when the clerk complemented me on my English.”

His wife immigrated from Argentina in 1994 and became a U.S. citizen fourteen years later, and has only a slight accent, explains Clarkson.

Clarkson said he could have solved the bizarre confusion by relying on another part of his identity as an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation.

“Apparently it would have been easier if I’d shown her my tribal ID,” he told the Sun-News.

The D.C. courts system acknowledged the staff error.

“We understand that a clerk in our Marriage Bureau made a mistake regarding New Mexico’s 106-year history as a state,” a spokesperson said, according to the Sun-News. “We very much regret the error and the slight delay it caused a New Mexico resident in applying for a DC marriage license.”

Clarkson, a Republican,  is an associate professor at New Mexico State University, and formerly served the Trump Administration in the Department of the Interior.

‘I Sent Her Supervisor a Map’

It was the first-time Clarkson had encountered the issue, but to many fellow New Mexicans, the story was sadly all-too-familiar.

“Been there when I lived in Virginia,” wrote one social media user. “They would not take my foreign credit card.”

“The same thing happened when Atlanta had the Olympics in 1996,” wrote another. “Whenever someone from New Mexico would call the ACOG sales desk to order tickets, they would be told that they had to order tickets through their own country’s ticket sales organization.”

New Mexico Magazine has a collection of anecdotes under the theme, “One of Our Fifty is Missing,” running back over several years.

Jimi Gray’s account is typical: “A clerk in Scott County, Minnesota, repeatedly requested I send immigration documents along with my birth certificate. You were born in New Mexico, so I will need a copy of your green card,’ she said. Since I don’t have a green card, I sent her supervisor a map of the United States with New Mexico highlighted.”

Follow Simon on Twitter: @SPVeazey