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Gay marriage bill fails in House

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico won’t be joining the list of states allowing same-sex marriage after a proposal to change the state Constitution to legalize it was killed by a House committee Thursday.

The Voters and Elections Committee tabled the proposed amendment on a vote of 7-4, with two Democrats joining the panel’s Republicans to shelve the measure.

There is no similar proposal pending in the Legislature, and sponsor Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, acknowledged the issue is dead for this year’s 60-day session.

“That was it,” said Egolf, who called the vote a “huge disappointment.”

He also said supporters of same-sex marriage “will absolutely not stop. It’s too important to let it go.”

Egolf and other gay rights supporters said House Joint Resolution 3 was the first pro-marriage constitutional amendment to be brought before New Mexico lawmakers.

There previously has been legislation to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as constitutional amendments to outlaw same-sex marriage. None of those has passed.

House Joint Resolution 3 said the issuance of a marriage license could not be denied on the basis that the applicants were of the same sex. It also said no church or religious institution could be required to perform or recognize a same-sex marriage.

The vote followed impassioned debate by supporters who said it is the civil rights issue of our time and opponents who said homosexuality is unnatural, immoral and contrary to Biblical beliefs.

“I think it’s a shame that people have to come to the Legislature to ask permission under the law to be treated equally,” Egolf told the committee.

He also said children in gay and lesbian households should be brought up “believing their families are as valued as any other.”

House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, in an emotional speech recalled the historical prohibitions on marriage between whites and blacks, saying it was “shocking” to remember that era and the religious-based arguments against miscegenation.

He and other supporters also suggested it was past time for New Mexico to legalize gay marriage.

“In my kids’ generation, it’s not an issue,” Martinez said.

Glen Strock, pastor of the Pecos Valley Cowboy Church in Glorieta, said marriage between a man and woman is the “core of healthy human culture.”

Legalizing same-sex marriage would disrupt the social order and be a threat to the institution of marriage, Struck said.

If society experiments with same-sex marriage, “can we expect God to bless America?” he asked the committee.

Former state House member Andy Nuñez of Hatch said if gays and lesbians in New Mexico want to marry, they can go to Canada or elsewhere.

“It’s not right. In my estimation it’s morally wrong. … I don’t think New Mexico is ready for that,” said Nuñez, an independent who lost his seat in the November election.

The state Democratic Party in a statement after the vote said HJR3 was about “respect and recognition” of same-sex couples.

The struggle for equality “is at a crossroads in America, and New Mexico has chosen the wrong path,” said state party chairman Javier Gonzales.

Lawmakers who voted to table the measure didn’t speak on the issue.

Voting to table were GOP Reps. Thomas Anderson, William Rehm and Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque; James Smith of Sandia Park; and Paul Bandy of Aztec. Democrats who voted to table the resolution were Debbie Rodella of Española and Voters and Elections Chairwoman Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces.

Voting against tabling were Martinez; and Democrats Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Edward Sandoval of Albuquerque; and Nathan Cote of Organ.