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N.M. county clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Aug. 21, 2013 at 2:36 PM

LAS CRUCES, N.M., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Dona Ana County, N.M., will issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples who request them beginning Wednesday, County Clerk Lynn Ellins said.

State Attorney General Gary King -- who had previously issued an opinion a state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional -- said in a court filing in July, "New Mexico's guarantee of equal protection to its citizens demands that same-sex couples be permitted to enjoy the benefits of marriage in the same way and to the same extent as other New Mexico citizens."

King has declined to defend the ban in lawsuits challenging its constitutionality, and has asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to strike down a ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

Ellins said it could take "many months or years" to resolve the issue because the state Supreme Court declined last week to issue a ruling on legal challenges to the ban in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties, instead returning the cases to lower courts, the newspaper said.

"In the meantime, I am mindful that I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the State of New Mexico as Dona Ana County Clerk," Ellins said.

Ellins said denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the U.S. and New Mexico constitutions and the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

"Dona Ana County is upholding New Mexico law by issuing these marriage licenses, and I see no reason to make committed couples in Dona Ana County wait another minute to marry," he said.

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