Lawmakers on the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee have approved a resolution that would let voters decide if same-sex marriage should be legal in New Mexico.
The 3 to 2 vote broke along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor, Republicans against the proposed constitutional amendment. It's one of several legislative measures aimed at defining marriage, and sponsor Brian Egolf - a Democrat from Santa Fe - says it's a no-brainer:
"There's no doubt in my mind that this will happen in New Mexico and this will happen across the country. I just hope that New Mexico is one of the first states to do it and not one of the last. We've seen it in New York and Maine and Minnesota and Washington, Iowa, New Hampshire. The sky's not falling in those states.
This isn't the first time the Legislature has taken up a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2007 and '08 similar bills were defeated or saw no action. Also in 2008 a bill defining marriage as between a man and a woman died with no action - it had the same title as the current same-sex House Joint Resolution 3. This year second term Republican Representative Tim Lewis of Rio Rancho, who says he's heard from some of his constituents who are in favor of the measure, doesn't support it:
"I believe those issues are very important; however, uh right now I believe our state needs to be focused on economic issues. People of all sexual orientations, whether gay, lesbian, transgender, they need jobs just as bad as anybody else, and so I think we need to be focusing primarily right now on getting jobs for all of the citizens of New Mexico."
Angela "Spence" Pacheco is serving her second term as northern New Mexico's district attorney. She says she'd get married to her partner of almost 32 years, Peg Tassett, immediately if the legislature passes and voters approve the constitutional amendment. They wouldn't wed just because of the spiritual and emotional aspects, she says, but because right now the couple's children, who will soon be 22 and 25 years old, have more legal rights than they do.
"Something happens to us, our son and our daughter can make decisions for us that we can't make for one another, and see, there's something fundamentally wrong with that."
Peg Tassett added:
"…and, you know, we're getting to a time in our lives when we're thinking about the end of our lives. When one of us passes before the other, we don't have that opportunity to say, okay, 'who has the higher social security or the higher this or the higher that?'"
The same-sex resolution will be heard next in the House Voters and Elections Committee. Another proposed constitutional amendment declaring marriage between one man and one woman is also making its way through the legislature.