New Mexico Resident's ID Temporarily Rejected as 'Foreign' By D.C. Clerk A spokeswoman for the Washington courts system apologized for a failure to recognize New Mexico as a state.
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New Mexico Resident's ID Temporarily Rejected as 'Foreign' By D.C. Clerk

Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces, N.M., speaks at the Albuquerque bureau of The Associated Press earlier this year. On Nov. 20, a Washington, D.C., court clerk failed to recognize New Mexico as a state and said Clarkson's driver's license was not a valid ID for obtaining a marriage license. Russell Contreras/AP hide caption

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Russell Contreras/AP

Gavin Clarkson of Las Cruces, N.M., speaks at the Albuquerque bureau of The Associated Press earlier this year. On Nov. 20, a Washington, D.C., court clerk failed to recognize New Mexico as a state and said Clarkson's driver's license was not a valid ID for obtaining a marriage license.

Russell Contreras/AP

A New Mexico man applying for a marriage license in Washington, D.C., this month had his state driver's license rejected as a form of identification because a clerk and her supervisor believed New Mexico was a foreign country.

Gavin Clarkson, a Las Cruces, N.M., resident, said he was at the District of Columbia Marriage Bureau on Nov. 20 applying for a license to wed his then-fiancée when their nuptial plans hit a brief snag. The clerk told him he would need an international passport on the apparent belief that he wasn't a U.S. citizen.

"She thought New Mexico was a foreign country," he said of the clerk as quoted by the Las Cruces Sun-News. "All the couples behind us waiting in line were laughing."

Clarkson was a recent candidate for New Mexico secretary of state and is a member of the Choctaw Nation. He said he protested the clerk's decision to her supervisor, who also failed to recognize New Mexico as a state.

"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 tweeted.

It wasn't until Clarkson went back to the clerk again, insisting that his state driver's license was a legal form of identification, that the clerk finally agreed to accept it and issue him a marriage license.

A spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Courts acknowledged the error.

"We understand that a clerk in our Marriage Bureau made a mistake regarding New Mexico's 106-year history as a state," said Leah H. Gurowitz, director of media and public relations for D.C. Courts, in an email 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 and his now-spouse, Marina, a naturalized citizen from Argentina, said the whole encounter lasted about 20 minutes and ultimately they were married with a good story to tell about the process.

Clarkson's citizenship was not the only thing questioned by the clerk. Marina Clarkson speaks fluent English, but with a slight accent. However, the clerk complimented Gavin, not Marina, for his command of the language. That left Marina wondering: "Why are you complimenting him on his English?"