March 15, 2023

Bill to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination heads to Guv desk

A bill to expand the New Mexico Human Rights Act to update its language and ensure public bodies cannot discriminate against LGBTQ individuals heads to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.

HB 207, sponsored by state Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces, passed the state Senate by a vote of 26-10. 

The bill updates the language in the Human Rights Act, which was written in the 1970s. The updated language replaces the word “handicap” with “disability,” and updates the definition for sexual orientation and gender identity. It also ensures that public bodies, which receive public dollars, cannot discriminate against LGBTQ individuals. An individual who alleges discrimination would take their grievance to the state Human Rights Commission.

Hamblen gave a tearful closing statement about the importance of the bill and how LGBTQ individuals feel increasingly fearful across the country as other states roll back or eliminate protections against transgender and other individuals.

State Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, tried to amend the bill to exclude religious organizations that receive public dollars to provide social services within their communities. The amendment failed by a voice vote.

State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, a cosponsor on the bill, said the bill is about “treating people equally.”

“What we’re doing, we’re expanding that [the Human Rights Act] so there are no loopholes in the law,” he said.