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.
Legislators plan on introducing at least three LGBTQ-related bills in the upcoming legislative session, including one that would amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act. New Mexico Human Rights Act
Written in the 1960s, the New Mexico Human Rights Act could use a language update, according to Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, a nonprofit that serves the LGBTQ community. One of the things the bill will bring, if passed, will be updated definitions of gender identity, gender and sexual orientation. “We’re crafting broad, expansive definitions to make sure this covers every person in New Mexico,” Martinez said. The second thing the bill will do is close what Martinez called “a loophole” that has always existed in the New Mexico Human Rights Act.
Equality New Mexico, a nonprofit that advocates for the state’s LGBTQ community, celebrates the 30th anniversary of its founding this year. Marshall Martinez, executive director of EQNM, said the organization plans a kickoff party in Santa Fe during the Legislative session and will continue to celebrate throughout the year. While the year-long festivities will be joyful, EQNM got its start in 1993 in a very different climate. Martinez said EQNM formed in response to the HIV crisis, which was still roiling through the LGBTQ community. “People were dying in massive numbers,” he said.
Amid much fanfare, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law at the White House on Tuesday. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill last week by 258 to 169. The bill passed the U.S. Senate the week prior by 61 to 36 votes. The bill repeals the 1995 Defense of Marriage Act, which stated that marriage is solely between a man and a woman and denied federal benefits to same sex couples. Related: Respect for Marriage Act passes Congress: What it means for New Mexicans
The new law protects same-sex and interracial marriages by recognizing those marriages federally.
The U.S. House passed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that protects same sex and interracial marriage, on Thursday. The bill previously passed the U.S. Senate. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it. He has expressed his support, saying “love is love,” in a previous statement. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with bipartisan support, with 61 to 36 votes last week when 12 Republicans joined Democrats in voting for its passage.
President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this month to expand equality for LGBTQIA+ individuals. The order is sweeping and involves several different federal agencies. It says that while the U.S. has advanced LGBTQIA+ rights in significant ways, much still needs to be done, particularly for transgender individuals and LGBTQIA+ individuals of color. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said this is the “first time a sitting president has made such clear statements about queer and trans people.”
“It’s definitely a refreshing break from what we’ve been hearing and seeing so much of,” Martinez said. There has been an uptick of anti-trans bills introduced into state legislatures in recent years, according to LGTBQIA+ advocates.
Expansions in the Violence Against Women Act, signed by President Joe Biden this spring, recognize the LGBTQ community for the first time. Initially enacted in 1994, VAWA improves responses to gender-based violence through federal dollars to various state and local programs and agencies, including the courts. Congress last reauthorized the legislation in 2013. This spring, Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization, which is expected to help with such issues as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQ community for the first time. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called the inclusion in VAWA funding “a big victory.”
“The first thing that is important to know is this is the first time LGBTQ folks specifically are included in VAWA.
If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as is now expected this summer, the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community will be thrown into jeopardy, advocates believe. In the leaked draft opinion that reveals the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito attacked the court’s arguments written into the Roe v. Wade decision affirming the right to abortion. He also took aim at Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe. Roe v. Wade rests on the argument that individuals have a right to privacy and that the right can be found in the 14th Amendment and in other amendments. Subsequent rulings that effect LGBTQIA+ rights, such as Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision granting the right to same sex marriage, rests on a similar argument.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an omnibus crime bill into law on Wednesday, which officials say will reduce crime. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat seeking reelection in November, pushed a “tough on crime” agenda during the 2022 Legislative session. Lawmakers rolled several crime bills into one to create the omnibus bill, which increases penalties for violent offenders. State House Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Santa Fe, sponsored HB 68. The new law will also eliminate “gay panic” defense in criminal cases.
This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on anti-abortion bans that some say could have the potential to impact LGBTQ+ constitutional rights. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments earlier this month for two cases filed over Texas SB 8, which prohibits abortion at six weeks. On December 1, the Supreme Court will hear another case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, over the right of Mississippi to ban abortion at 15 weeks. Many rights that involve bodily autonomy, such as the right to contraception, the right to abortion and the right for same sex couples to marry, rest on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the 5th and 14th amendments. “In the due process clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments there’s this protection of process when the government deprives us of life, liberty and property.