With delays in reproductive health care already taking place, officials with American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said it could get worse as the global pandemic of COVID-19 continues. Ellie Rushforth, a reproductive rights attorney for ACLU-NM, sent letters to elected officials Monday urging them to ensure reproductive health care will remain accessible during the public health emergency. The letters, to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, congressional officials and the mayors of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces, ask that they consider abortion care, all forms of birth control; STI screening, testing, and treatment; vaginal health and treatment; prenatal, delivery, and postnatal care as essential reproductive services that need to remain accessible. The letters outline immediate steps, including that reproductive health care clinics and outpatient abortion providers be considered, “essential business.”
Lujan Grisham announced a stay-at-home order Monday in an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus. As of Monday, March 23, the state has 83 test positive cases, with 18 new ones.
Eager for change, a new organization called the New Mexico Indigenous Women’s Resource Council symbolically tied a ribbon Saturday in Gallup to launch a group dedicated to advocacy and helping people who are marginalized within indigenous communities. The council’s board president, Sonlatsa Jim-Martin, Navajo-Modoc, said the group will focus on women and girls in indigenous communities who experience domestic violence, helping indigenous people who are LGBTQ, and working on causes such as missing and murdered indigenous women. Jim-Martin said the number of missing and murdered women and girls from indigenous communities is alarming. She said the problem is worse than the numbers officially reported. “We know we can say it’s happening every day,” Jim-Martin told NM Political Report.
New Mexico’s U.S. senators say that U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does not support civil rights or oppose discrimination. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, signed onto a letter to the secretary telling her “your actions belie your assurances” on these issues. The letter cited her ties to a prominent anti-LGBTQ group and her appointment of staff who oppose a 2011 Title IX Guidance on sexual assault.[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]No ads. Just news. Support local, non-profit news.
After the 2017 general legislative session adjourned, Gov. Susana Martinez vowed to veto any tax increases and to call legislators back to the Roundhouse for a special session soon to redo the budget. Democrats said their package would avoid any further cuts to education, which has seen several slashes in recent years because of declining revenue to the state. The governor’s office says a state government shutdown could happen as early as next month. This story also appears in this week’s edition of the Alibi. In a post-session press conference, Martinez blamed lawmakers, saying some “failed to do their jobs this session.” Her tone capped a tense few days between her office and the Legislature.
After a contentious, hours-long debate, the state House of Representatives voted by a wide margin for a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors — the widely discredited practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual orientation. The measure cleared the House late Wednesday on a 44-23 vote. Nine Republicans joined 35 Democrats in backing it. Only one Democrat, Rep. Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque, sided with a bloc of mostly rural Republicans who opposed the initiative. That group of Republicans dragged debate on the measure deep into the night, raising concerns that it would trample freedom of religion and suggesting that homosexuality is a choice or even a mental illness.
With little debate Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to change the gender listed on on their birth certificate. Under Senate Bill 120, transgender people wishing to change their birth certificate no longer have to submit a physician-signed statement that they have undergone a sex-change operation. Instead, the only required document would be a form signed signed under penalty of perjury by a licensed medical or mental health-care provider saying that, based on the provider’s opinion and in accordance with contemporary professional standards, the individual’s sex designation should be changed. The bill sponsor, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, told the Senate that the provider’s statement would have to confirm that the applicant had undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. Then, he said, a court would decide whether the birth certificate’s marker should be changed.
In a bipartisan decision Friday, a Senate committee voted 5-0 in favor of a bill that would outlaw the use of conversion therapy to treat homosexual, bisexual or transgender minors. The vote by the Senate Public Affairs Committee for Senate Bill 121 came after emotional testimony from audience members, some of whom had undergone conversion therapy. Kei Cypher, a student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, said she was raised in a religious family in Colorado Springs, Colo., that was confused when she came out at age 13. “They told me it was something I got from MTV or video games,” she told the committee. “They took me to a therapist who told me it was a perversion and that I should snap my wrist with a rubber band or hold ice in my hands every time I had such thoughts.”
Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community gathered in a park in a Southeast area of Albuquerque Sunday evening in solidarity with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. Hundreds of people gathered while local politicians and advocates spoke out against violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community. University of New Mexico LGBTQ Resource Center Director Alma Rosa Silva-Bañuelos opened the somber and tearful event by addressing the Orlando shooting. Related: Photos: Albuquerque gathers for vigil for victims of Orlando
“We lost our family this morning and that’s why we’re gathering here today,” Rosa Silva-Bañuelos said. “If you’re sad it’s okay because it shouldn’t be happening in 2016.”
Rosa Silva-Bañuelos repeated a common sentiment that these bars and clubs are often a place of comfort for a community that may not have another place to go.
Sunday night, hundreds of people gathered in Albuquerque to mourn the deaths of dozens of patrons at a LGBTQ club in Orlando who were shot and killed. Police identified Omar Mateen as the man who killed those in what President Barack Obama called “an act of terror and an act of hate.” Mateen allegedly pledged to the terror group ISIS before shooting dozens at the club. Related: Albuquerque mourns for Orlando victims
New Mexico politicians weighed in on the tragedy in Orlando where dozens of people at a LGBT club were shot to death and dozens others injured. Police identified the suspect as Omar Mateen. Information is still coming in on the shooting. President Barack Obama called it “an act of terror and an act of hate.” His full address, the 15th post-mass shooting massacre since he took office, is embedded below.