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Male councilors question all-female Santa Fe commission

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Does a proposal to create a women’s commission with the intent of advancing opportunities and improving the quality of life for women and girls discriminate against men?

Two men on the City Council think that perhaps it does.

Councilors Mike Harris and Roman Abeyta raised that concern during a Monday meeting of the council’s Public Works Committee.

Mike Harris


“I have a really hard time with this,” Harris said, adding that he wasn’t against the idea of a women’s commission, per se, but that men were being excluded from representation on the commission.

Harris pointed to the proposed resolution defines “women” as “transgender women, self-identifying women and girls, and gender non-conforming individuals.” Based on that definition, he said he couldn’t understand why men were being excluded.

Harris wondered aloud if there were any other city committees whose membership was determined by age, race, gender or religion. City staff likened the proposed panel to the Mayor’s Youth, Senior Services and Veterans advisory boards, which are made up of children, senior citizens and military veterans, respectively.

Harris was the only committee member to vote against the proposal, but Councilor Abeyta also questioned why men wouldn’t be allowed to serve on the commission.


Roman Abeyta

He said if the problem the proposed commission was trying to address was inequity caused by men, then men shouldn’t be barred.

“That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” he said.

The two women on the committee — Councilors JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Renee Villarreal — didn’t directly comment about the make-up of the board.

Villarreal, however, expressed support for the legislation, saying that she felt it was particularly important that the city try to address inequities that exist between genders, particularly the pay gap and an uneven playing field when it comes to earning potential.

The resolution states the purpose of the women’s commission is to “advance the causes of gender equity and opportunity for all women and girls in Santa Fe.”

The commission would research and recommend policy changes affecting women in the workplace, including on compensation, advancement, maternity, public breastfeeding, discrimination and misogyny, among other issues.

Renee Villarreal

“I just want to make sure this happens and that we’re really digging deep,” said Villarreal, who serves as program co-director for NewMexicoWomen.Org, a statewide non-profit that works to advance opportunities for women and girls.

The resolution already has majority support from city lawmakers. Abeyta, Harris and Villarreal are the only members of the eight-member City Council who have not signed on as sponsors of the bill, which is also co-sponsored by Mayor Alan Webber. The resolution calls for the mayor to name all seven members of the women’s commission.