Domestic partnership passes committee

The Associated Press

SANTA FE — Miriam Rand and her partner have been together 20 years. They’ve worked in the community and at home, raising three children and now a grandchild.

Through it all, they’ve lugged around a batch of legal documents that give one another the rights they would have if they were married.
The paperwork stays in their cars, ready for an emergency — a hospital trip, for example, where one of the women might need to assert her right to be there and make decisions.

They’re past ready to swap all those files for a simple certificate of domestic partnership, and Rand hopes this is the year the New Mexico Legislature will endorse that.

“I believe it will,” the Albuquerque woman said Thurs-day. “The governor supports it, and I think that enough states in the country are beginning to think about this as a civil rights issue.”

With the legislative session in its third day, a bill creating domestic partnerships for gay or straight couples began moving, narrowly winning approval from the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. It would also have to clear the Judiciary Committee before reaching the full House for a vote.

House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, says he wants to act on the issue early in the short, 30-day session.

The Legislature has dealt with domestic partnerships previously, most recently during regular and special sessions in 2007 at the prodding of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson. The bills cleared the House but bogged down in the Senate.

The legislation allows couples to register with county clerks, who would issue them certificates.

It would provide rights and protections to couples “who are currently unable to provide one another a safety net,” family law attorney Lynn Perls said.

Opponents of the bill told the committee that domestic partnerships violated Christian principles and would cause confusion about marriage.

“Many couples do not realize that a domestic partnership has all the encumbrances and difficulties of marriage … but it doesn’t have the tax advantages,” said Miki Vasquez of the Center for Christian Community in Santa Fe.

The committee voted 4-3 for the bill, with Democrats for it and Republicans against.

The domestic partnership bill is HB9.