New Mexico lawmakers on Thursday said that they would pursue legal
action against a county clerk who began issuing marriage licenses to
gay and lesbian couples on Wednesday.
State Senator William Sharer of Farmington told the AP that a
lawsuit seeking a court order to stop Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn
Ellins from issuing such licenses would be filed as earlier as this
“It has to do with a county clerk cannot make law. That is the
Legislature's job,” said Sharer, a Republican who in 2011 sponsored
a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a heterosexual
Sharer said that more than two dozen GOP lawmakers had agreed to
join the lawsuit.
Ellins said in a statement that he had concluded that the “state's
marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit
Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender
The surprise move came as several legal challenges make their way
through the courts.
In filings to those cases, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King,
a Democrat who is planning a bid for governor, called New Mexico's
prohibition unconstitutional. On Wednesday, he said that his
office's stated position in those cases “presents a barrier to us
from bringing any action” against Ellins.
Republican Governor Susana Martinez, an opponent of marriage
equality, also gave no indication that her office was planning to
take legal action.
Ellins' office had issued more than 70 licenses to gay couples by
Thursday afternoon, according to the AP. Most of the couples had
opted to marry on the spot, afraid that their licenses would later be
In 2004, a Sandoval County clerk issued licenses to 64 gay
couples. Those licenses were later deemed invalid.
In a separate but related development, a New Mexico lesbian
suffering a life-threatening form of brain cancer on Wednesday asked
a state court to let her legally marry her partner of 21 years.
suffering from brain cancer asks New Mexico court to let her marry.)