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Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins Set To Defend Marriage Equality

StateSealofNewMexicoRepublican lawmakers are suing Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins to try and stop him from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Ellins estimates that it will take about $40,000 to defend marriage equality in court, and so far, he has managed to raise $28,400 through private donations at a website set up for that purpose.

Elllins also noted that his office had received another $1,500 in checks at his office.

All together, he has managed to raise about three quarters of the money he needs to defend marriage equality. Some 556 people have donated through the website, according to Ellins, but the number of donations have dropped recently. HE stated that “I’s on about the same pace I expected.”

Since 21 August,
Ellins has issued some 225 marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Since then, several other New Mexican counties have been ordered to issue licenses to same-sex couples, and the state Supreme Court has signaled that they will be taking up the issue in October.

On 29 August, a group of Republican state lawmakers lead by William Sharer filed suit to stop Ellins from issuing the licenses.

Ellins chose to seek private donations to defend marriage equality because he knows that not all of the taxpayers in his county agree with his decision to start issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. Ellins also does not want this to impact the county’s insurance premiums.

The first bills from the legal defense of marriage will begin to come due on Thursday. Ellins began to accumulate debt on the issue prior to issuing the licenses as he had to do research into the subject of same-sex couples getting marriage licenses ahead of actually issuing them.

Sharer, however, claims that Ellins not only used taxpayer money in reprinting the marriage license applications and registration documents in order to issue licenses to same-sex couples, but that in doing so, Ellins violated state law regarding the wording of those documents. Apparently law 40-1-18 states that the documents must use the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in the application and ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in the marriage license.

New Mexico, however, does not have an explicit ban on same-sex marriage, and even the implicit ban on same-sex marriage is on shaky ground as several judges have ruled that, in the absence of an actual ban on same-sex marriage, the state’s constitution, which ban discrimination based upon sex, means that same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico.

Sharer has stated that Ellins took the law into his own hands and claims that “That’s what he used taxpayer money for — to change the forms.”

Sharer and the twenty-four legislators backing him have not launched a specific fundraising drive, but has cozied up to Traditional Values Advocacy Committee to raise funds for their legal challenge.

Sharer has whined incessantly about how Ellins ‘bypassed’ the state legislature saying that “He may have a point on the issues, but he still acted lawlessly. That’s not the way we make law. That’s not the way an American, representative Republic makes law.”

Ellins has pointed out that the state constitution bans discrimination based upno sex, and that overrides the very minor statute about the wording of the documents associated with same-sex marriage. Ellins’ points have been backed up by various courts in New Mexico already.

Sharer’s case against Ellins has yet to be assigned a judge, and may not get a date in court depending upon the outcome of the NM Supreme Court ruling in October.

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