Bipartisan vote blocks proposal
Two Democrats and five Republicans united Thursday to block a bill that would have allowed a public vote on gay marriage in New Mexico.
The proposal failed 7-4 in the House Voters and Elections Committee. Democratic Reps. Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces and Debbie Rodella of Espanola joined with the committee’s five Republicans to stop the initiative.
Sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, the proposed constitutional amendment said marriage licenses could not be denied on the basis that both applicants were of the same gender. His measure also provided that no church or religious institution would have to perform a marriage ceremony that conflicted with its beliefs.
Three military veterans testified for the bill, saying they fought for their country only to be denied the right to marry the person they loved.
A woman told the committee that, the year she graduated from high school, she could not have married a white man because she is black. The prejudice against interracial marriage was ended by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the one barring same-sex marriage continues, she said.
Glen Strock, pastor of Pecos Valley Cowboy Church, was among several people who argued against the amendment based on biblical teachings.
“The same God we ask to bless America said, ‘You shall not lay with a man as with a woman. That is an abomination,’ ” Strock said.
Former state representative Andy Nunez, an independent from Hatch, also opposed the bill.
“We’re against this gay marriage. It’s not right in my estimation,” Nunez said. “They can go to Canada and get married, or somewhere else.”
House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, made an impassioned speech for the amendment. He wept at one point as he recounted the struggles of a young gay man who had cut his wrists because of unhappiness.
Martinez, right, argued that gay people are born with that orientation, and said everyone by now should understand that.
“Why would you choose a life where you’re going to be discriminated against?” he asked.
Martinez’s oratory was strong enough to move several people in the audience to tears.
Egolf, his own voice breaking with emotion, said his amendment was one of simple fairness. People should be able to marry the partner they want, and the state should recognize those unions he said.
Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, said he supported the bill as a vehicle of democracy. Approving it would let voters decide the question, Cote said.
No committee member argued against the amendment.
Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, moved to table the proposal, though he said he took no joy in doing so. Democrats control the committee 6-5, but Rodella and Garcia tipped the balance this time by voting with the Republicans.
Egolf said he was more disappointed than surprised by the vote.
"I also think it is extraordinarily sad," he said.