County Clerk Lynn Ellins (pictured below) began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples this morning at 8 am, Progress New Mexico reports. Doña Ana County borders El Paso.
Same-sex couples in Dona Ana County New Mexico began receiving marriage licenses this morning from the county clerk who announced he was issuing them based on a widely discussed legal opinion, endorsed by the attorney general last month, that the state’s equal protection laws required the state to provide the same benefits of marriage extended to other couples.
“We couldn’t be happier for the couples in Dona Ana County – and those across the state who will soon, no doubt, make their way there – who have waited far too long for public sentiment and political courage to evolve far enough to publicly acknowledge their relationships as being just as equal as that of their neighbors,” says Patrick Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive advocacy group working to advance marriage equality in the state.
Progress New Mexico also published the photo you see at top, but its subjects were not identified.
Last week, Ellins said, the New Mexico Supreme Court declined to issue a ruling sought by attorneys for same-gender couples seeking marriage licenses from the county clerks in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties. Instead, the Supreme Court sent these matters back to the lower courts for an initial review on the merits.
"That means it could be many months or years before the matter is resolved," Ellins said. "In the meantime, I am mindful that I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the State of New Mexico as Doña Ana County Clerk. I am an attorney, and I have read the AG's opinion, and I find it to be sound. After careful review of New Mexico's laws it is clear that the state's marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Doña Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act. Doña Ana County is upholding New Mexico law by issuing these marriage licenses, and I see no reason to make committed couples in Doña Ana County wait another minute to marry."
In related news, the New Mexico Supreme Court has been asked to streamline lawsuits related to marriage equality in the state, the AP reports:
A same-sex couple from Santa Fe wants the New Mexico Supreme Court to streamline the handling of lawsuits seeking to legalize gay marriage in the state. The couple's lawyer, Rep. Brian Egolf, said Tuesday the justices are being asked to consolidate all cases involving the gay marriage issue and assign them to a district court judge in Santa Fe. The goal is to get a quick lower court decision and clear the way for an expedited ruling by the state's highest court.