In Memoriam: Jen Roeper, New Mexico woman who challenged state marriage laws
November 11, 2013
On Friday, November 8, Jennifer Neuman-Roper, who played an instrumental role in the campaign to win the freedom to marry in New Mexico, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Jennifer and her wife, Angelique Neuman-Roper, were one of the first same-sex couples to marry in New Mexico and were key plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by the ACLU of New Mexico and the National Center for Lesbian Rights to win marriage in NM. Jen is surved by Angelique and their sons, Jayms, David, and Damion.
When Jen and Angelique joined Griego v. Oliver, filed in March 2013 by these legal groups, they requested an emergency ruling before the New Mexico judge, explaining that because Jen suffered from Stage 4 brain cancer, she had no time to wait for the long legal process in the state to run its court. Thanks in part to their story, the New Mexcio Second District court ordered Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties to immediately begin issuing same-sex couples to marry on August 26, 2013. Since then, six additional New Mexico counties have extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, and on October 23, the NM Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case brought by the 33 county clerks in the state, seeking clarity on the state's marriage laws.
Over 1,500 same-sex couples have already married in the state, including Jen and Angelique, who said "I Do" in the lobby of the Christus St. Vincent Cancer Center on the first day of the freedom to marry in Santa Fe, and then later in a more formal ceremony. Joline Gutierrez Krueger wrote an extremely moving article about Jen and Angelique's wedding ceremony from October 11 in Pojoaque. Krueger wrote:
I asked Neuman how she is managing her emotions, ricocheting between joy and sadness, love and loss.
“Just look at how happy we looked at the wedding,” she replied. “That explains it all.”
I wish you all could have been there Friday to see that happiness – especially those of you who still believe marriage is reserved for us straight folk.
It’s an equality thing, a constitutional thing, yes. But mostly, it’s something palpable, something between two people, two hearts. It’s love. I wish you could have seen that.
Jen and Angelique played a huge role in winning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Santa Fe County and beginning the conversation about winning across the state in New Mexico. When the judge ruled in favor of their case and they married, Jen and Angelique shared more of their story and spoke with news organizations. Jen explained, "I was so privileged at being able to be officially and completely recognized as her wife. I feel extremely privileged over the support that we're getting. Thank you so much. We are so very happy to be officially married after 21 years together. It was a dream come true for us and for all the other couples who married today."
Jen's death is a loss to the entire LGBT community. We wish our deepest condolences to her wife Angelique and their children, as well as their friends, other family members, and all who were touched by her courage and advocacy even as she struggled with such a challenging disease.