LAS CRUCES, N.M. — A county clerk in New Mexico whose actions ultimately prompted the state Supreme Court to declare same-sex marriage legal statewide, says his office issued nearly 900 marriage licenses to gay couples in the past year.
Last year, Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins — noting that New Mexico’s marriage laws were gender neutral — decided independently to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Within weeks, nine other county clerks followed Ellins’ lead, putting the issue of same-sex marriage on the front burner in New Mexico.
The action culminated in a state Supreme Court decision in December that said denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the New Mexico state constitution. And with that, New Mexico became the 17th U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Now, almost one year later, Ellins said Friday his office has given out 896 licenses since he issued license to a same-sex couple on August 21, 2013.
Ellins says he gave out the most licenses within two months after announcing they would be made available.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Bans that have been overturned in some other states continue to make their way through the courts.