Separate bills ruling out same-sex marriage and authorizing domestic partnerships in New Mexico have gotten the go-ahead from a state senate committee. Gay rights advocates have decided since they can't stop a bill--in the senate, anyway--defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, they will simultaneously push for domestic-partnership legislation, which provides the same rights as marriage. Gov. Bill Richardson has expressed support for both proposals.
The domestic-partnership bill squeaked out of the senate public affairs committee 5-4 Tuesday, while the definition-of-marriage bill was endorsed 6-2. The senate judiciary committee is the next stop for the two measures. "Marriage...is between a man and a woman," said Sen. James Taylor, an Albuquerque Democrat who voted for both bills. But, he added, "I will protect the minority of my constituency as well."
The marriage bill defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Its sponsor, Sen. William Sharer, said it's needed to clear up confusion caused in part by the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples one day last year in Sandoval County. "I believe the root cause of all our societal problems is the destruction of marriage," said Sharer, a Farmington Republican. Twenty-nine of the senate's 42 members have endorsed the legislation.
Opponents said the way to strengthen marriage is through societal programs that would help reduce the divorce rate. And they said the bill is discriminatory. "I want my nieces and nephews to be able to marry whomever they want to marry," said Tomasina Grey, a lesbian Navajo from Mariano Lake.
The domestic-partnership bill, sponsored by senate judiciary chairman Cisco McSorley, an Albuquerque Democrat, would allow gay or straight New Mexicans to be licensed by county clerks as domestic partners. The bill would give them inheritance rights without a will, hospital visitation, health care decision-making, and the ability to file joint state tax returns. Opponents objected that lawmakers were caving in to a "politically correct agenda" pushed by gay rights advocates. Ronny Rardin of Alamogordo, a former Otero County commissioner, said passing the legislation would open the door to incest, pedophilia, and bestiality. (AP)