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Wednesday, February 25, 2004
N.M. Republicans Support Bush Ban on Gay Marriage
By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON The three Republicans in New Mexico's congressional delegation said Tuesday with varying degrees of enthusiasm that they support President Bush's call for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages.
Meanwhile, one delegation Democrat, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, said he opposed the proposition, while the other, Rep. Tom Udall, declined to say if he would oppose or support it.
According to the U.S. Census, Santa Fe, which Udall represents as part of the 3rd Congressional District, has the second-highest percentage of same-sex couples, per capita, of any city in the nation. San Francisco is ranked first.
All five New Mexico delegation members appeared to grapple with the politically volatile announcement by Bush, declining telephone interviews and issuing statements instead. Most did not respond to Journal inquiries on the issue until well after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican who represents the state's 2nd Congressional District, issued the strongest statement in support of the president's proposal.
"I believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman," Pearce said. "Without a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the union between one man and one woman this fundamentally natural unit will be eroded by a vocal minority and activist courts, contrary to the will of the American people."
Bingaman, in another prepared statement, said he opposed the president's request to amend the constitution, but he stopped short of saying he endorsed gay marriage.
Bingaman voted in 1996 for a Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as a union between a man and a woman.
"We do not need to amend the constitution to resolve the question of same-sex marriage," Bingaman said in a statement. "In my view, the states are the right place for this issue to be decided."
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he didn't take "amending the U.S. Constitution lightly," but added that he would support the president "in this case."
"At this point, I am for passing such an amendment and allowing the American people, not the courts, to decide this issue," Domenici said. "I believe marriage is for a man and a woman."
Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said she would prefer that the question of gay marriage not become a constitutional issue, but that she would support the president because she believes that "marriage is the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife."
"Since activist judges and local officials are seeking to redefine marriage, I would support an amendment that reflects my belief," said Wilson, who represents the 1st Congressional District.
A spokesman for Udall declined to say whether the congressman would support the constitutional initiative, arguing that Bush hasn't defined how it would be worded. The spokesman said Udall would like the issue to remain a state matter and that the federal government not get involved.
Gov. Bill Richardson, appearing on Fox News on Tuesday before returning to New Mexico from a national governors' meeting in Washington, D.C., reiterated his opposition to gay marriage but also said he opposed the amendment proposal.
Richardson agreed with Bingaman that the issue should be left up to the states.
"I believe it's very bad public policy ... to tamper with the Constitution on an issue like this, which should be left up to the states ... I think it's unfortunate," the Democratic governor said.