Dona Ana official grants same-sex marriage licenses
Lynn Ellins, the Dona Ana County clerk, began issuing same-sex marriage licenses on Wednesday.
In a flash, he went from a local politician in a quiet office to one receiving national publicity.
Ellins, right, said in a statement that, after reviewing New Mexico's laws, those on marriage are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit him from issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He said he was upholding the state constitution with his decision recognizing same-sex marriage.
The Santa Fe clerk last spring declined to issue a marriage license to a gay couple, touching off one of two lawsuits challenging that ruling. The other suit was filed in Bernalillo County.
Sam Bregman, chairman the state Democratic Party, praised Ellins in a statement.
"Today is a great day for equality in New Mexico. Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins, a great Democrat, made history and helped ensure that marriage equality will move forward throughout New Mexico,” Bregman said.
State Attorney General Gary King, a Democrat running for governor, did not back Ellins' decision.
King said in a statement that it was not wise to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because state law on the matter was unsettled. He said the safer route for couples was to wait for a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
That could take months or years. The state Supreme Court last week declined to hear the lawsuit by two Santa Fe men who sued after the clerk in their county declined to issue them a marriage license.
The Supreme Court said the lawsuits on gay marriage should be heard in district courts first, then possibly considered on appeal.
King said his office had no authority over county clerks and did not intend to bring any action against Ellins.