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Mexico keeps partner bill alive

Mexico keeps partner bill alive

New Mexico's proposed domestic-partnership bill remained alive Tuesday as tired lawmakers were called back into special session to consider it and several other bills deemed crucial by Gov. Bill Richardson.

The bill, which would give same-sex and straight unmarried partners many family and estate-planning rights, was gutted Friday by the state senate in the regular session's waning hours by a cliff-hanging 22-20 vote.

The house, with Richardson's encouragement, restored the bill early Saturday to the stronger form it had passed in February. But by the time the restored bill was sent back to the senate, the legislative clock had run out.

"On Friday at 9:30 p.m. we were in the governor's office, talking about what could be done to keep this alive," Alexis Blizman, executive director of Equality New Mexico, told on Tuesday. "And he went down to the house floor and talked to people. And the house voted to restore the bill at 3:30 in the morning."

The question now is whether New Mexico legislators will stay in session long enough to consider Richardson's unfinished agenda, which includes road and campaign finance packages as well as the partner bill.

The governor has the power to reconvene lawmakers but not to keep them on duty. Each house can reconvene, then vote to go home--but the adjournment lasts only three days unless the other chamber agrees. On Tuesday the senate appeared much less eager to go back to work, with some GOP lawmakers grumbling that their Democratic governor had spend much of the hectic weekend running for president.

It's "150%...about the gay rights, the domestic partnership," senate minority whip Leonard Lee Rawson told TheAlbuquerque Tribune.

It would take only one changed senate vote to pass the partner bill--Richardson or Lt. Gov. Diane Denish would break the tie in favor, Blizman asserts--but house minority whip Dan Foley doesn't expect that to happen.

"How do you get someone who voted one way to change his mind in three or four days?" Foley told TheSanta Fe New Mexican. "I'd hate to be the one to defend that vote."

On Saturday, Richardson is scheduled to keynote a Human Rights Campaign fund-raiser in Los Angeles. Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos told the Tribune that "the governor already has a strong record on human rights issues and can talk about it at the speech regardless of the outcome on that particular bill."

In 2003, Richardson signed an executive order extending benefits to the domestic partners of state workers, TheAlbuquerque Journal reported. Last week he vowed to sign a bill legalizing medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS and other patients. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)

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