Gay rights bill gets green light in New Mexico

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 25 2003 1:00 AM ET

A proposal to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation won final approval in the New Mexico legislature Friday and was sent to Gov. Bill Richardson for his signature. Earlier last week the legislature approved a hate-crimes bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Richardson has promised to sign both pieces of legislation.

The antidiscrimination measure will extend protections to gays and lesbians, making it illegal to discriminate against them in matters of employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and union membership. The legislation will broaden the state's Human Rights Act to cover sexual orientation-- heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality--and gender identity. The measure cleared the legislature when the senate voted 22-20 to accept a house-passed version of the bill. The house had approved the proposal 32-26. The proposal will exempt businesses with fewer than 15 workers regarding employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Supporters say the measure is needed because it is now legal to fire someone or refuse to hire someone because he or she is gay--or because of the perception that the person is gay. Opponents argue that passing the measure will invite lawsuits as well as burden businesses.