FILE – In this Aug. 21, 2013, file photo shows Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins in Las Cruces, N.M. Ellins announced that his office is now issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples, a first in the state’s history in Las Cruces, N.M. The only crowds gathered outside Ellins office were for gay couples who wanted to get married. The state’s top politicians were essentially silent. Experts say the relative silence is just one more sign of how quickly public opinion has turned on the issue. (AP Photo/Las Cruces Sun-News, Shari Vialpando-Hill, File)
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A southern New Mexico county clerk who is facing a challenge for his decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses has garnered close to $30,000 in donations, the clerk announced this week.
The Las Cruces News-Sun reports (http://bit.ly/1418Osl) that Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins has pulled in 556 donations totaling nearly $28,400 from a website.
That’s about 75 percent of the estimated $40,000 goal Ellins says will be needed to defend against a lawsuit filed by a group of state legislators who’ve challenged in court his issuing of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
“It’s on about the same pace I expected,” he said, of the total raised so far.
Ellins issued the first licenses to same-sex couples on Aug. 21. He says around 225 licenses have been dispersed to date.
State Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, and a group of legislators filed a lawsuit Aug. 29, challenging the legality of Ellins decision.
Ellins has said he recognizes that not all county taxpayers agree with his decision and so he doesn’t want them to be liable for the expense. He’s said that’s the reason he’s seeking private donations to pay the expense beyond $10,000 that will come from the county’s insurer without affecting county premiums.
Legal expenses started accruing with research Ellins did prior to starting to issue licenses.
The group of lawmakers are suing Ellins, though it doesn’t have an active campaign to generate funds, is directing supporters of its cause to donate at a different website.
Sharer said his group, which has backing from about two dozen lawmakers, hasn’t specifically launched a fundraising drive. But he said any interested donors can contribute to Traditional Values Advocacy Committee at http://tvacnm.com, which has supported his legal challenge.
Sharer said Ellins is bypassing the state Legislature, which is the body that has authority to changes statutes, such as the one spelling out the wording for marriage licenses.
“He may have a point on the issues, but he still acted lawlessly,” Sharer said. “That’s not the way we make law. That’s not the way an American, representative Republic makes law.”
Ellins has argued that the state constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and because of an oath he took to uphold state laws, he’s obligated to issue marriage licenses to gay couples for the sake of equality.
The fundraising website for Ellins’ cause is equalitydonaanacounty.com. Ellins also said two fundraising events are planned, one at the Golden Corral in Las Cruces and the other among a group of supporters in Santa Fe.