NM legislators want voters to decide same-sex marriage debate
Dueling bills in NM Legislature
The New Mexico Legislature is tackling a hot-button issue: same-sex marriage. There are two opposing bills on the matter going through the House.
Same-sex couples are keeping an eye on the legislative session, all because of two dueling bills that would either legalize or ban same-sex marriages in the state.
Both bills would put the decision in the hands of New Mexico voters.
"I think I would feel less like a second-class citizen and I think it's really important that everyone in the LGBT community feels as though the law recognizes their rights equally," said gay-rights supporter Jake Mayfield.
That's what Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) argues is the basis of the bill he's sponsoring.
"Marriage really should be a religious institution but over the centuries, it's become a civil one, and because we're in a civil situation here, it's only fair that people should be able to participate in it regardless of their gender," he told ABC-7.
Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-Lincoln) feels it's just as important to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Both are proposing amendments to Article 20 of the state constitution. If either bill manages to make it through the Legislature, it would be up to voters to make the final decision.
This bypasses having to get Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's signature. Martinez has been vocal in the past about her opposition to same-sex marriages.
Las Crucens seem to have mixed feelings about the issue.
"Whether or not you personally believe in gay marriage or do not should have no bearing on what we legislate for our country," said Las Crucen Rebecca Nelson.
"I would be against same-sex marriage. I just don't think it's natural. You don't see it out in the animal world," another Las Crucen said.
History shows both bills have plenty of challenges ahead.
Espinoza has tried to get similar marriage bills passed without success.
The Legislature has never passed a domestic-partnership bill.
Nonetheless, same-sex couples are hopeful.
"It (would mean) that I wouldn't have to drive to Vermont to get married, that if I did ever find the right partner I could get married in my home state. It would just be a better future, I think, for a lot of us," said gay rights support Chris Brillante.
Egolf's bill for same-sex marriage has passed through the first committee. It has to get through two other committees before the House can vote on it.
Espinoza's bill against same-sex marriage is scheduled to be heard by its first committee on Tuesday.
If either bill is approved, the amendment would go before voters in the 2014 general election.
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