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 V.18 No.7 | February 12 - 18, 2009 

Roundhouse 2009

Can Legislators Revive Domestic Partnerships?

Bills lack support from some Democrats

Rep. Mimi Stewart says she's not sure if a domestic partnership bill can slog through the Senate this year.

But the Democrat from Albuquerque maintains that the day when it becomes law is approaching.

"Eventually, we're going to pass this bill," Stewart says. "It's going to be in front of [the Legislature] every year until we do."

The story of domestic partnership legislation in New Mexico has become predictable.

Eventually, we're going to pass this bill.

Rep. Mimi Stewart

Just like in 2007 and 2008, Sen. Cisco McSorley's bill got trapped in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

This time, it was Democratic Sen. Bernadette Sanchez who dealt a blow to the bill. She walked off the floor to take a call on her cell phone instead of casting the tie-breaking vote that could have moved the bill to the Senate floor. The 5-5 split stopped the measure in its tracks on Monday, Feb. 2.

They did what they think is best.

Sen. Cisco McSorley

In the past, some Democrats have crossed party lines to stand against the bill with their Republican colleagues. Without more uniform Democratic support, domestic partnerships may never make it to Gov. Bill Richardson's desk. That's a shame for the bill's proponents, because the guv says he supports the legislation.

Domestic partnerships aren't dead in the water yet. There's still more than a month to go before the legislative session ends, and Rep. Mimi Stewart's bill—identical to McSorley's down-for-the-count measure—is still alive and well in the House. McSorley also remains determined and confident his bill can be revived. "I think we're going to pass the domestic partnership bill this year," McSorley says. "We're going to have to work with the members we have now in the Judiciary before the bill gets out.”

McSorley says he bears no ill will toward Sanchez for her non-vote. "I am not disappointed in any of the senators," McSorley says. "They did what they think is best."

For the bill to succeed, McSorley may have to convince Sanchez or a Republican in the Judiciary Committee to change sides. When asked whether a domestic partnership bill could clear the House and Senate without heading to the Judiciary Committee, McSorley did not directly answer. Instead, he reiterated that he believes his bill still has a chance.

I'm Just a Bill

To become a law, a measure must pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the governor.

If two identical bills are introduced (as is the case with the domestic partnership legislation), only one of the bills needs to make it past both legislative bodies. Then the bill must be signed by the governor before it becomes law.

One of the identical bills may get stuck in a committee, while another could sail through to the governor's desk.


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