New Mexico’s Proposed Domestic Partnership Law Raises Issues
New Mexico–one of five states that does not have laws or a constitution that defines marriage–also has no domestic partnership law. Domestic partnership bills have passed the House of Representatives three times in the past, and two years ago, the Senate came within one vote of passing the bill.
Conservative Republican Sen. Bill Sharer said in a recent legislative session he tried to craft a bill with language that
would have given couples who live together — including homosexual couples — virtually all the rights that married couples have, including hospital visits, inheritance rights and other legal and financial rights.
But Sharer’s legislation would have also defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, something which gay rights advocates protested. That bill died.
Now the Democratic chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Cisco McSorley, has introduced new legislation minus the definition of marriage, and is "optimistic" it will pass, telling the Santa Fe New Mexican:
It has a great chance of passing. There’s a lot of new legislators who are for it who have replaced legislators who were against it.
Sharer though sees the McSorley’s legislation as a way to open the door to civil marriage equality:
Supreme courts in California and Connecticut ruled that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional
adding that those decisions were based on domestic partnership laws, and predicting a battle over the proposed legislation. Supporters of the new bill deny trying to use domestic partnership as a gateway to civil marriage equality. Explains McSorley:
There’s lots of people in New Mexico who need, for whatever reason, to live together and share finances. This bill provides a device, virtually free, to allow couples to share financial and legal responsibilities.
And how do those affected feel about it? In an interview with the New Mexican, Linda Siegle, a lobbyist with Equality New Mexico, emphasized that McSorley’s bill is not a marriage bill, and allowing legal domestic partnership arrangements still is a "separate and unequal" situation for same-sex couples. The federal government does not recognize a domestic partner relationship as a married couple and 1130 federal rights granted married couples are denied to those in domestic partnerships.
But a domestic partnership law would be far better than the status quo.
Which right now is nothing.