Dona Ana County votes in favor of supporting marriage equality
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Dona Ana County Commissioners voted 4-1 to support County Clerk Lynn Ellins decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in a meeting Tuesday morning.
After a morning-long debate, which included the initial deletion of the agenda item to support Lynn Ellins, Commissioners reversed their decision after a lengthy public comment session.
"After hearing the stories from people in Dona Ana County they understood they needed to do the right thing," said Carrie Hamblen, President of PLFAG Las Cruces.
Last Wednesday, Ellins decided to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses in Dona Ana County.
"To characterize how some people have said it, I was the pebble that got thrown in the pool," Ellins said.
Since then, San Miguel County and Valencia County have joined Dona Ana in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Tuesday morning commissioners heard passionate arguments from those in favor and against the resolution, but voted 3 to 2 to remove the item from the agenda.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, dozens of residents spoke before the commission.
Commission Chair Billy Garrett had wanted to limit the discussion for an hour, but as Garrett's hour deadline approached, there were still 25 residents lined up to speak on the issue.
Most were in favor of the issue, thanking Ellins for his decision.
"I want to just thank Mr. Ellins for affording us the same civil rights as anyone else in Dona Ana County," said Ric Rao who married his partner of 43 years on Wednesday.
After a brief break Commissioners continued to hear public comment, including from a state representative. Rep. Bill McCamley spoke before commissioners saying that Wednesday was one of his proudest moments as a public official.
At the conclusion of public comment, Chair Garrett said the board would reconsider adding support item to agenda. Commissioner Leticia Benavidez made the motion to have the resolution supporting
Ellins reconsidered and Commissioner Wayne Hancock seconded it.
Commissioner Benjamin Rawson said the issue should be decided at the state level; while Hancock stated that it would be appropriate for board to take on the issue.
"It's a very serious issue but this is a legal issue as well and there are laws to take into account and that's how those should be addressed," Rawson said.
Benavidez then added that she supports same-sex marriage, but she had initial questions that prompted her to vote in postponing item earlier in the session.
After voting to put the item back on the agenda, commissioner voted in favor of passing the resolution 4-1 with Rawson voting against it.