Bills to protect LGBTQ rights part of upcoming session

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 celebrates 30 years, looks forward

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.

Biden expands LGTBQIA+ rights in sweeping executive order

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.

Abortion will remain legal in New Mexico, even after U.S. Supreme Court decision

If the Supreme Court’s leaked draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization becomes reality in late June or early July, New Mexico will remain what some have called “a beacon” of legal abortion care. The state legislature passed and the governor signed last year the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed old language from the criminal code banning abortion in 1969. While the antiquated language had not been enforceable since 1973, many policy makers worked to pass the repeal of the old ban before a conservative-leaning state challenged Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court level. State Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, who was the lead sponsor on a previous version of the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, told NM Political Report that because of that “foresight,” to “fight forward” the state now doesn’t have to “fight backwards” on abortion rights. She said that, at this time, she is not preparing legislation for further protections on abortion in the state for the next session, beginning in 2023, because of the successful repeal of the ban in 2021.

Advocates: SCOTUS decision emphasizes need for more LGBTQ protections

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia is not likely to a impact the New Mexico LGBTQ community, legal experts and advocates have said. Fulton v. the City of Philadelphia asked the Supreme Court to decide if Catholic Social Services (CSS) could continue its contract with that city to help find foster families even though the city said it couldn’t because CSS discriminates against same sex couples in its fostering application. The Supreme Court heard the case last fall and when the U.S. Congress was considering Justice Amy Coney Barrett for nomination to the bench, members of the LGBTQ community in New Mexico worried that a more conservative bench could overturn precedent and allow discrimination, which in turn could have a ripple effect in New Mexico. Related: U.S. Supreme Court could roll back LGBTQ equality

But, Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the court’s decision in June was so narrow it would only apply to this particular case wouldn’t likely have an impact in New Mexico. “I disagree with the finding but what the court said is, because the city contract contained a mechanism for offering individual discretion to the agencies, the court held the city could not refuse to extend the contract to Catholic Social Services,” she said.

Senate passes bill protecting hair and hair styles in schools and workplace

A bill to protect people in school or the workplace from discrimination based on their hair or hairstyles passed 37 to 0 in the Senate Thursday. SB 80 would amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination based on cultural or religious headdresses and protective hairstyles and would prevent school districts and charter schools from disciplining children based on their hair, hairstyle or cultural or religious headdresses. Sponsored by state Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, who talked about discrimination he faced as a child because of his hair, the bill received virtually no debate on the Senate floor. Pope is the first Black state Senator in New Mexico history. State Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said he supported the bill but asked if a school coach or referee would be able to address safety issues if the bill passed.

A bill to amend the state’s Human Rights Act clears committee hearing Saturday

A bill that would amend the New Mexico Human Rights Act to make clear that public bodies and state agencies are subject to its provisions passed unanimously in committee hearing Saturday. HB 192 is sponsored by House Rep. Brittany Barreras, an independent from Albuquerque who caucuses with the Democrats. Called the Extend Human Rights Act to Public Bodies, the bill passed the House Local Government, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs unanimously. Barreras and co-sponsor Rep. Angelica Rubio D-Las Cruces, amended the bill to modernize the language and change “handicapped” to  “disabled”  and clarified that public agencies would not have to change programmatic focus under the bill. Marshall Martinez, interim executive director of Equality New Mexico, said this bill, if made law, would bring greater clarity to the New Mexico Human Rights Act.

Proposed HUD rule worries some over potential shelter discrimination for transgender community

U.S. Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule that critics say would enable shelters to discriminate against transgender people and lawfully turn people away who need a place to sleep for the night. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed the rule in early July and allowed for a 60-day comment period. The rule, if promulgated, would affect shelters that receive federal funds and are single sex dormitories or segregate into single sex areas. Under the proposed rule, shelter providers can turn people away if their gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were classified as at birth. Albuquerque’s West Side Shelter receives federal funding and has single-sex areas.