Nobody Voted On Whether I Can Get Married: NM County Clerks Stand Up for Change

by
Abby Zimet

The historical sea change that is gay marriage is unfolding in singularly intriguing  fashion in New Mexico, the only state whose laws on the subject are so ambiguous  they neither forbid nor allow it. After years of debate, proposed (failed) bills on both sides and punting by state officials, Lynn Ellins, the 75-year-old, long-married, heterosexual, former “Rockefeller Republican" county clerk of the state's largest county started issuing same-sex marriage licenses a few weeks ago, citing constitutional protections against discrimination, "jurisprudence since the late 19th century,” and the fact that “nobody voted on whether I can get married" - after which, because all politics are both local and global, the clerks in the state's five next most populous counties gratefully followed suit. Now, with over a thousand licenses issued statewide, lawsuits are flying from all sides, including from other clerks who want the courts to clarify where they stand and GOP legislators who argue it's not the clerks' job to "interpret the law" like a thinking person and anyway “people are getting away from principles and absolutes,” like the principle of discriminating against someone who believes something different from you. Meanwhile, gay marriage advocates are applauding the stand taken by Ellins, the oldest clerk with the youngest staff, who says he's "used to lawsuits" and let 'em go for it.

“Let me put it this way, some people have balls, some people don’t, alright? Some of them truly believe that they need direction from on high and they’re not willing to do a constitutional analysis....Some of them are philosophically opposed, so they wouldn’t do it unless they were brought to the shed and whacked.”

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