Dona Ana County will go down in history as the first jurisdiction in New Mexico to issue same-sex marriage licenses — and the attorney general says he sees nothing in state law to prevent the unions from continuing, despite the absence of specific voter approval.
Attorney General Gary King said on Wednesday he won't challenge the county's move, which came on the heels of a clerk's decision to interpret the law in favor of gay marriage. County Clerk Lynn Ellins said he had read existing law and determined "the state's marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples," The Associated Press reported.
So he started issuing them — and by the end of the day, more than 40 gay couples had flocked to the county clerk's office to obtain a license, AP reported.
The courts, meanwhile, haven't yet ruled on the same-sex-marriage issue. Several cases are on the dockets, though, AP reported. The attorney general, meanwhile, said he's not going to challenge any county that wants to follow in Dona Ana's footsteps and begin approving marriage licenses for same-sex couples.
That decision is quite a switch from his earlier statements, however. A couple months ago, Mr. King released a paper outlining his position on gay marriage, in which he said state laws don't allow for the unions, AP reported. Mr. King also asked for county clerks to hold off issuing the licenses. That's when Mr. Ellins took matters into his own hands and interpreted the law differently.
Mr. Ellins said he decided to go forward with gay-marriage certifications after reading statutes and determining that "any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act," AP reported.
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