Posted at: 08/21/2013 10:04 AM
Updated at: 08/21/2013 1:14 PM
By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com
This couple was the 17th to be issued a marriage license in Dona Ana County.
Photo: Maria Guerro, KOB Eyewitness News 4
LAS CRUCES -- Same-sex couples can now receive marriage licenses in Doña Ana County.
So far, the clerk's office confirms 11 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since County Clerk Lynn Ellins made the announcement on Wednesday morning.
Ellins said that he had been considering issuing licenses since last June, when New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said New Mexico's ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was unconstitutional.
After the New Mexico Supreme Court declined to issue a ruling on marriage licenses for same-sex couples last week, Ellins decided to take action in his county. He issued the following statement:
"That means it could be many months or years before the matter is resolved. 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."
Gov. Susana Martinez told KOB Eyewitness News 4 her reaction to the news.
"You know right now, I've always been really clear about where I stand in reference to marriage and that it is between a man and a woman," she said. "If that should change, that should be a change that is made by the people."
Equality New Mexico told KOB that Ellins' decision is a step in the right direction.
"Our hope is that this morning's action will further demonstrate the need for such expedited consideration," the group said in a statement.
Ellins said couples requesting marriage license will no longer be turned down, and starting today, licenses will be issued at the Doña Ana County Government Center. For information about New Mexico marriage license requirements, call the Doña Ana County Clerk's Office at (575) 647-7421.