The case of a statue of the Ten Commandments in Bloomfield came to an end Monday, as the U.S. Supreme Court denied statue supporters’ an appeal to the high court. The city of Bloomfield was ordered by a federal district court to remove the monument in 2014, citing the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling two years later, leaving the city’s final option to push for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico announced Monday that the attempted appeal was rejected. “This is a victory for the religious liberty of people everywhere,” ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a statement. “The Supreme Court’s decision to let the rulings against the monument stand sends a strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community.
If you could get high on a city, Fiestas weekend on the Plaza is where you would go to breathe in the essence of Santa Fe. This past Saturday, generations of families and others came to laze around in the late-afternoon sunlight. The smells of fry bread and meat wafted in the air as chomped corn cobs piled up in trash cans. Folklorico music and mariachi trumpets mixed with Baby Boomer-era hits like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” as small children bounded on the grass, a few shooting at each other with toy guns. This story originally appeared at the Santa Fe Reporter and is reprinted with permission.
Two advocacy organizations filed discrimination complaints against an Albuquerque Walgreens pharmacy for allegedly refusing to fill a birth control prescription. The complaint, sent to the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, was written by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Southwest Women’s Law Center. The organizations allege a pharmacy employee at a store on Coors Boulevard refused to fill a misoprostol prescription to a teenage woman who was at the store with her mother last August, citing personal reasons. This refusal, according to two complaints, violates the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex. “Refusing to fill prescriptions that are directly tied to the attributes that make women different from men—i.e. the ability to become pregnant—constitutes sex discrimination,” the complaints read.
After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”
Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.
A Democratic-majority House committee voted along party lines Thursday afternoon to remove pre-Roe v. Wade language in state statute that criminalizes abortion practices. The original state law, passed in New Mexico in 1968, makes “criminal abortion” subject to a fourth-degree felony. It defines “criminal abortion” as any action or attempt at an “untimely termination” of a pregnancy that is not “medically justified.” A medically justified abortion, according to state law, is limited to abortions in cases of pregnancy from rape, incest or when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger. The landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in most cases across the country, made state laws like this obsolete. Related story: House committee stalls another round of abortion bills
But proponents of the bill to strike the old state statute argue that the state language would go right back into law should the U.S. Supreme Court change Roe v. Wade in the future.
Comments from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week that he intends to “pull back on” federal oversight of police departments drew mixed reactions from officers and civil rights advocates in Albuquerque, where a police reform agreement between the city and the Justice Department is nearing the midway point of its third year. Reform proponents told New Mexico In Depth they were troubled by Sessions’ remarks, and they are ready to step in to ensure that APD adheres to constitutional policing if the federal government steps away. The president of the Albuquerque police union, meanwhile, said officers were pleased with the tone of support from the attorney general. The rank and file hope his comments could signal a softening of what they see as the agreement’s more onerous requirements. So far, though, the agreement and its effect on APD personnel have continued unabated since Donald Trump took office on Jan.
A New Mexico legislator is getting on board with an effort to force manufacturers of electronics that connect to the internet to install filtering devices that would block online “obscenity.”
State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, told NM Political Report he plans to sponsor a bill that would do so in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January. The bill, called the Human Trafficking Prevention Act, is backed by a group attempting to introduce identical bills in the legislatures of at least 23 other states this coming year. Nine state legislators and 11 lobbyists are listed as members of the national group, which bears the same name as the legislation, according to the group’s website. Gallegos said his previous attempts at curbing human trafficking got him interested in sponsoring this bill. But a look at an unfiled draft of Gallegos’ legislation shows that it goes much farther than just dealing with human trafficking.
The Secretary of State’s office can’t pay the penalty after being unable to comply with an open records law related to allegations of voter fraud. Now, after another appeal lost by the Secretary of State, the tab is nearly $125,000 and Secretary of State Brad Winter says they can’t pay up. That news comes from a report in the Albuquerque Journal. The penalty for violating the state law dates back to Dianna Duran’s time as Secretary of State and a 2011 assertion that voter fraud was rampant in New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sought the documents from Duran’s office to back up the allegations but never received any.
Gov. Susana Martinez wants to roll back the clock on the death penalty repeal. KVIA reported Martinez wants to reinstate the controversial punishment in response to the killing of police officers in recent years. A police officer was killed during a traffic stop last week in Hatch. The accused killer was wanted for murder in Ohio. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, after more than a decade of efforts.
A top city official’s assertion that police had to to put Donald Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters just a few feet from each other is wrong, the ACLU says. And the ACLU’s national website says that “police are permitted to keep two antagonistic groups separated” when it comes to public protests. But Mayor Richard Berry’s Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montaño, apparently didn’t know that on Monday when he told an Albuquerque Journal reporter just the opposite. According to the Journal’s story, “Montaño said police determined it would be against the law to force Trump supporters and protesters into separate areas. Previous case law, he said, calls for them to have the ‘ability to be right next to each other.”
But Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said case law doesn’t restrict police departments as much as Montaño claimed.