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Danny Gonzales is in his third year as football head coach at the University of New Mexico.
In that short time, his daughters, Chloe, 9, and Abby, 7, have become fixtures at practices and basically little sisters of the football players.
“The greatest thing is nobody treats Abby any different because she has Down syndrome,” Gonzales said. “She’s Abby.”
Gonzales and his wife, Sandra, have always been advocates of inclusion for Abby, for her education and anything else that could affect her. So it was natural for them to support New Mexico Senate Bill 158, which will prohibit discrimination against transplant recipients solely based on their physical or mental disability.
“With Abby we have a child who has Down syndrome,” Gonzales said. “It’s a part of her but it doesn’t define her. We are very blessed and fortunate that Abby has been healthy and hopefully we continue down that path. We have friends within the Down syndrome network and other friends with other disabilities that haven’t been as fortunate.”
Senator Craig Brandt had requested SB 158 for a special message from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Brandt announced Wednesday. On Thursday morning, Lujan Grisham responded that SB 158 has been deemed germane and will now proceed for consideration to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the legislative session in Santa Fe.
That’s good news, Gonzales said.
“A disability does not disqualify you from an organ transplant,” Gonzales said. “It’s common sense to me. We live in an amazing country. Why would anyone be denied anything because they have a disability?”
Gonzales said he was appreciative of Brandt, Lujan Grisham and Christy Sellers. SB 158 is also known as “Glory’s Law,” named after Sellers’ youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome. Sellers is also a strong advocate of the bill.
Brandt issued a statement regarding his request for a message from the Governor on Wednesday on the behalf of Gonzales, Sellers and many others.
The following was his statement:
“Every life deserves equal treatment under law. This is not a complicated bill or a difficult concept. This is basic human decency. Discrimination against the disabled has reared its ugly head in other states and now is the time to ensure it never happens in ours. We will not stand for the creation of second-class citizens. Every life is worth saving and every person deserves a shot at life to the fullest.”
Gonzales said he has been excited to support SB 158.
“I try to do the best I can and help whoever I can in a positive way,” Gonzales said. “My daughter has Down syndrome so helping that community which we are a major part of, it’s a great opportunity. Anything for a positive change, we’ll do whatever can. I really believe that’s part of God’s plan.”