DC agency apologizes for asking out-of-town couple seeking marriage license to prove New Mexico is a state

A District of Columbia government agency issued an apology this week after a couple from New Mexico applying for a marriage license was forced to prove that New Mexico is part of the United States.

Gavin Clarkson, a recent candidate for New Mexico secretary of state, told the Las Cruces Sun-News in an article published Thursday about the bizarre encounter he and his then-fiancée had with D.C’s Marriage Bureau.

Clarkson said they were at the bureau last week to apply for a marriage license when a clerk wouldn’t accept his driver’s license as proof of his identity. The clerk reportedly told him he would have to provide the bureau with an international passport in order to receive the marriage license.

{mosads}The clerk then went to check with a supervisor after Clarkson objected, and the supervisor also said Clarkson would need a passport, according to the Sun-News.

“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?'” Clarkson said in a Facebook post after the incident.

Clarkson told the newspaper the clerk eventually went back to check another time with other staff about whether she could accept his New Mexico driver’s license as proof of identify.

“She thought New Mexico was a foreign country,” he said of the clerk. “All the couples behind us waiting in line were laughing.”

The clerk also reportedly complimented Clarkson on how well he spoke English.

Clarkson said the clerk and staff concluded that New Mexico is indeed a U.S. state after the clerk checked for a second time and accepted his license as proof of identity.

Leah Gurowitz, director of media and public relations for D.C. Courts, where the Marriage Bureau is housed, apologized for the incident in a statement to the publication.

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

The incident follows a string of similar problems encountered by D.C. residents elsewhere in the United States, with some airport security, bouncers and bartenders not recognizing that D.C. is part of the United States.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in particular, has faced criticism in previous years for occasionally refusing to accept D.C. driver’s licenses as proof of identity at airport security.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) last year sent a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske in which she described a transportation security officer who refused to accept a D.C. resident’s driver’s license as a valid form of ID.

Clarkson, who is also an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, said, “Apparently it would have been easier if I’d shown her my tribal ID.”

Tags Driver's license Eleanor Holmes Norton Identity documents marriage license New Mexico

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