SANTA FE – After a dramatic set of votes in the Senate Judiciary
Committee Monday afternoon, domestic partnership legislation moved
toward consideration by the full Senate.
Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, an Albuquerque Democrat, cast the critical vote allowing the bill to proceed.
Sanchez’s absence from the room during a vote on Feb. 3 resulted in
a 5-5 tie that effectively held Senate Bill 12 in limbo. Afterward,
Sanchez said had she been there, she would have voted against domestic
But today she changed her mind. After a first round of voting, from
which she was absent, Sanchez came into the committee room and the bill
was put to another vote.
Citing the recent court decision allowing gay marriage in
Connecticut, Sanchez explained why she decided to support sending the
bill to the floor. "I really feel, Mr. Chair, that this probably needs
to go to the floor for a full hearing [of] the benefits and the
consequences of us doing this," Sanchez said.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, would
give straight and gay couples many of the same rights and
responsibilities of civil marriage, such as access to health insurance,
family medical leave and property rights. It was supported by groups
like the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign, but
opposed by the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Last year, domestic partnership legislation died in this same committee.
bill now moves to the Senate floor. If it passes there it goes to the
House, where last year it barely passed it by a vote of 33-31. The House version, HB 21 is sponsored by Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque.
Supporters and opponents of domestic partnership legislation had
crowded the Roundhouse all day, waiting patiently for hours in a stuffy
committee meeting room.
In recent weeks, two Democrats on the committee, Sen. Richard
Martinez and Sen. Sanchez, said they did not support the legislation
because their constituents did not support it.
Last week, supporters of domestic partnership released the results of a poll
showing that 63 percent of registered voters in Sanchez’ district
support domestic partnerships; 61 percent of voters in Martinez’s
district supported the legislation.
"They say 38 percent opposed and 61 percent want it, I don’t believe it," Martinez told NMI last week.