Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed two LGBTQ bills into law on Friday. HB 207 extends the scope of the New Mexico Human Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ individuals. Now, a public body cannot discriminate against an individual based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. HB 31 eliminates an antiquated statute requiring publication of a name change. The New Mexico Human Rights Act, which was written into statute in 1969 and updated in 2003 banned a public school district from discriminating against a potential employee because the person identifies as LGBTQ but did not address whether a teacher could discriminate against a student.
The 2023 Legislature was a landmark session for LGBTQ bills, according to advocates. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said three bills passed in the 2023 Legislature that make this past session a watershed moment for the LGBTQ community: A bill to add discrimination protections to LGBTQ residents, a bill to protect those practicing and seeking gender-affirming care and a bill to end the requirement to publicize a name change in the newspaper. Martinez said the two bills that are especially unique are the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act and the Expansion of New Mexico Act. The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare Act, sponsored by state Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, prohibits public bodies from discriminating against individuals seeking reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare. Hobbs and Clovis and Roosevelt and Lincoln counties have passed ordinances that both make it harder for reproductive health clinics that provide abortions to apply for a business license and prohibit medication abortion prescriptions through the mail despite federal approval.
A bill to abolish the requirement to publish a name change passed the state Senate by a vote of 35-5 on Tuesday. HB 31, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, will now head to the governor’s desk.
State Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, presented the bill on the Senate floor and said it will help survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. The bill also protects transgender individuals.
The current statute, written in 1889, requires the publication of a name change in a local newspaper for 14 consecutive days. HB 31 removes that requirement from the statute and allows a child under the age of 14 who undergoes a name change to have their records sealed. The bill also enables a person under the age of 18 to only need one parent’s consent on a name change in the event the child is not safe from both parents or legal guardians.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would revise the state constitution via a commission. Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, D-Milan, was the sole vote against the bill, which passed 8-1. “This bill addresses the constitutional revision commission as one of the three ways by which we can amend our constitution,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces said. “Most of us are very familiar with the amendment process by which we put the issues on the ballot and the voters vote on constitutional limits. Another way of the three is a constitutional convention.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to pass a bill that would end cost sharing and copays for additional breast examinations on Wednesday. HB 27 would, if enacted, end cost sharing and copays for additional screenings some patients need for breast cancer examinations. The Affordable Care Act mandates that mammograms do not require out of pocket costs but for patients who need additional examinations with MRI’s or the use of other technology, the cost can become prohibitive. State Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, is the sponsor of the bill. She said she first became aware of the problem when she got calls from constituents who told her stories.
A bill to allow individuals to change their name without putting a legal notice into the local newspaper passed the House 43 to 24. HB 31, No Publication Required for Name Change, now heads to the Senate. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Albuquerque, received little debate on the House floor. It will, if enacted, protect transgender individuals and survivors of domestic violence, stalking and assault from needing to put a legal notice in a local newspaper to announce the name change. State Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, took issue with the fact that a 15-year-old could change their name without notifying a parent or guardian.
The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that expands voting rights on a 7-4 party-line vote on Monday. HB 4, if enacted, would expand automatic voter registration, restore released convicted felons’ right to vote, create a voluntary permanent absentee voter list and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act. “For this bill, I think it’s a really solid step forward in improving access to the electoral system for as many people as possible,” House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Christine Chandler said. “And the other one is this issue of felons and they’re released from prison and… they’re on some conditions of parole and what do we want for those folks? We want them integrated in our society..
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care bill with two amendments by a party line vote of 7 to 4. HB 7 will, if enacted, ensure that all individuals in the state can access reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care and that if an individual is discriminated against in seeking that care, the individual can seek legal remedy. Rep. Linda Serrato, a Democrat from Santa Fe, sponsored the bill and has said frequently that the bill will, if enacted, prevent a patchwork of healthcare across the state. The cities of Clovis and Hobbs and Lea and Roosevelt counties have passed anti-abortion ordinances that impact abortion clinics’ ability to apply for licenses in those political subdivisions and also place restrictions on medication abortion. Clovis Mayor Mike Morris spoke during public comment on the bill and said the bill “takes away home rule.”
He asked that the committee, if unable to vote no on the bill, “preserve our local authority to reflect the values of the citizens,” he said.
A bill that will eliminate the requirement to give public notice when changing a name passed the House Judiciary Committee by 10 to 0 on Friday. Sponsored by House Rep. Christine Chandler, a Democrat from Albuquerque, HB 31 will, if enacted, eliminate from statute the requirement to place a public notice for 14 days in the local newspaper when a person seeks to change their name. The Legislature put the requirement into law decades ago and it was intended to prevent individuals from evading creditors. The law is now antiquated and it puts transgender individuals and survivors of domestic violence, assault and stalking in danger, advocates of the bill have said. Chandler said the bill removes the requirement that both parents be notified of a name change of a minor.
A bill to help breast cancer patients and, potentially, reduce mortality rates in New Mexico awaits a hearing in the current legislative session. The bill, Breast Exam Health Coverage, or HB 27, would end cost-sharing costs for individuals who require additional breast imaging to detect breast cancer according to Rachel Birch, the director of State Policy and Advocacy for Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer research and advocacy organization. Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, is sponsoring the bill. Chandler said by email that “early detection is key to treating breast cancer.”
“Unfortunately, right now patients who are at higher risk or need follow-up tests after an abnormal mammogram often face out-of-pocket costs that are extremely burdensome or prohibitive, even with commercial insurance. By eliminating those costs, we can make it easier for patients to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, which means more New Mexicans will have access to lifesaving care,” Chandler said.