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New Mexico senate votes against same-sex unions

New Mexico senate votes against same-sex unions

A six-word change to New Mexico's state statutes provoked nearly 2 1/2 hours of impassioned debate as the senate voted to outlaw gay marriage. Senators on a 25-12 vote Wednesday approved a bill that defines marriage as a contract "between a man and a woman." Supporters said it would clarify state law and strengthen New Mexico's families. "Nature has shown us the way...and we know that the best situation for children is with a mother and father that love them," said Republican senator William Sharer, the bill's sponsor. Opponents said the "innocent-sounding" bill is discriminatory and sends a message of fear and hate. "It just says that a certain percentage of our citizens cannot get married, cannot enjoy the legal benefits of full participation in this society," said Democratic senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino. Eight Democrats joined 17 Republicans in voting for the measure. The dozen opponents were Democrats. With 10 days left in the legislative session, the bill heads to the house. Gay rights advocates knew they couldn't stop the bill in the senate, but they had hoped it would be accompanied by a separate piece of legislation authorizing domestic partnerships. That bill, however, remained tabled in a senate committee. Democratic governor Bill Richardson has said he supports both marriage definition and civil union legislation. It is not clear what he would do if only the marriage definition bill reached his desk. Marriage is the central social institution in society and represents "the evolution of the natural order," said Republican senator Mark Boitano. He said the bill is not an indictment of gay and lesbian relationships. "A vote to support this measure is a vote to support the best environment for our children," he argued. Opponents said heterosexuality is no guarantee of either a stable marriage or healthy, happy children. "If you look at the statistics of divorce in America, 'one man and one woman' isn't working," said judiciary committee chairman Cisco McSorley, a Democrat from Albuquerque. "Why can't we try something new? It couldn't be any worse." Democratic senator Phil Griego recalled his late brother, Billy, and his partner, Jim, who were part of every family get-together and celebration. "I would rather have seen Billy and Jim raise 10 kids than some heterosexual couples," Griego said. "We have a measure here today that will define a certain group of New Mexicans, cut them out, and separate them.... That's not right." The bill's supporters have said the issuance of marriage licenses to about 60 same-sex couples last year by the Sandoval County clerk confused the issue of marriage in New Mexico. But opponents counter that the attorney general settled the question by advising that the licenses were illegal. (AP)

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