The New Mexico Supreme Court has granted Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins party-in-interest status in a proceeding seeking a ruling on whether state statutes or the New Mexico Constitution require county clerks statewide to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Ellins will have the right to participate in oral arguments on the question at a scheduled Oct. 23 hearing.
“I’m pleased to have been granted party status to make my case that the New Mexico Constitution requires me – and New Mexico’s 32 other county clerks – to issue marriage licenses without regard to the gender or sexual orientation of the applicants,” Ellins said.
On Aug. 21, the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office became the first in the state to begin issuing same-gender marriage licenses. Seven other counties have followed suit, most under district court orders.
“We did not want committed couples to wait any longer for the equal rights to marriage to which they are entitled under our Constitution,” Ellins said. “It appeared district court challenges to the refusal of clerks in Santa Fe and Bernalillo County to issue licenses to same-gender couples would move slowly, further delaying enjoyment of a fundamental right. We believe my decision to issue the licenses was and is consistent with my oath to uphold the Constitution of the State of New Mexico. I’m hopeful the New Mexico Supreme Court will clearly establish the Constitutional right to marriage for otherwise qualified applicants regardless of sexual orientation.”
Ellins said a private fundraising initiative has covered all costs associated with both the Supreme Court proceeding and the Third Judicial District Court lawsuit filed against him in Doña Ana County by seven Republican legislators.
“People who care about marriage equality have reached into their wallets, making it possible to defend equal application of the marriage laws without taxpayer funds,” Ellins said. “I’m hopeful the Supreme Court’s decision will validate the wisdom of those investments of private funds.”
Since opening his door to same-gender couples on Aug. 21, Ellins and his staff have issued 300 same-gender marriage licenses, of which 244 have been returned for official recording after the marriages have taken place.* Couples have come from all over the State of New Mexico, as well as from Texas, Arizona and other states where same-gender marriage remains unavailable to them.
Ellins, a Democrat, is serving his second term as Doña Ana County Clerk. He is a former Colorado Chief Deputy Secretary of State, and he is a licensed attorney.