House panel stalls same-sex marriage proposal

Posted at: 02/21/2013 5:47 PM
Updated at: 02/21/2013 5:48 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Same-sex marriage appears to be a dead issue in this year's session of the New Mexico legislature.

The House Voters and Elections Committee snuffed out a proposed constitutional amendment Thursday, with two Democrats joining five Republicans to keep the issue off next year's general election ballot. The final vote was seven to four.

The action will keep the decision on same-sex marriage out of the hands of New Mexico voters, and keep marriage the way it is now, with the state recognizing it as a union between one woman and one man.

The committee hearing was long and packed with emotional testimony from gay and lesbian couples who wanted to get married, and from people who quoted from the bible to back up their opposition to the proposal.

Pat Davis, of Progress Now, crusaded for the amendment.

"Folks are already organizing," Davis said after the hearing. "When they left the committee room this afternoon they were already passing petitions, passing clipboards, getting new names of people to start again effectively right here this afternoon."

Lawmakers who voted against the proposed amendment said constituents back in their home districts overwhelmingly oppose gay and lesbian marriages. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brian Egolf, is convinced that voters across the state would approve the amendment - if they get the chance.

"I'm disappointed that the voters aren't going to have the opportunity to speak out and tell everyone in New Mexico that we're all going to be treated equally under the law," said Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat. "I think it's a disappointing setback, but this is not over."

A rival constitutional amendment is still alive but appears to be stuck in another House committee. It would define marriage as a union between one woman and one man, and once again, with legislative approval, the voters would make the final decision.