At the end of the day, more than 40 gay couples had rushed to the County Clerk's office to get their marriage licenses after Clerk Lynn Ellins decided to issue same-sex marriage licenses in a surprise move that came as several legal challenges on the practice make their way through the courts.
Ellins said he had carefully read state laws and concluded the "state's marriage statutes are gender neutral and do not expressly prohibit Dona Ana County from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples."
Dona Ana is the first county in the state to do so. Later in the day, the New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he had no plans to challenge the move by Ellins or any other county clerks who might allow the practice.
King said Wednesday that "we feel like our position that the law is unconstitutional presents a barrier to us from bringing any action." Still, he warned that marriage licenses issued by county clerks could become invalid if the state Supreme Court later rules that same-sex marriage is not allowed.
Ellins said he had been considering issuing the licenses since June, when King released a position paper saying state laws don't allow same-sex marriage. King had asked county clerks to hold off on issuing licenses, even though he believes the laws are unconstitutional.
Ellins, however, said "any further denial of marriage licenses to these couples violates the United States and New Mexico Constitution and the New Mexico Human Rights Act."