Thursday, January 6, 2011

Marriage Equality News from Rhode Island and New Mexico

As the new House and Senate settle in to the 112th legislative session, the LGBT community is adjusting to the new reality that our progress on national pro-equality legislation has been stalled for at least the next two years. Undeterred, LGBT activists setting their sights on state legislators to continue our forward momentum. We have some good news to report on the Marriage Equality front, coming from opposite ends of the country.

First up is newly elected Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who was sworn in on Tuesday. Chafee campaigned as a supporter of marriage equality and said in his inaugural speech, “When marriage equality is the law in Rhode Island, we honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality."

The Advocate reports:
Energized by the support of newly sworn in Gov. Lincoln Chafee (pictured), gay rights advocates will reintroduce a bill in Rhode Island’s House Thursday to legalize marriage equality.

Rep. Arthur Handy said in an interview Wednesday he has already lined up 27 co-sponsors and was hopeful he could get more. He said he would reintroduce the bill on Thursday regardless of the number of supporters he had in his corner.

Openly gay House Speaker Gordon D. Fox is the bill’s other lead sponsor. He said he hopes the House will vote early in the session before budget concerns take priority.
 Providence Journal confirms that Handy will introduce the bill today. If the bill passes and Chafee signs it into law, Rhode Island will join its New England neighbors Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont, as well as Iowa and DC, in legalizing same-sex marriage.

In a related story, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King offered his opinion about recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states and countries where it is legal, "a comprehensive legal analysis by my office concludes that valid same-sex marriages in other states would likely be valid in New Mexico."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
State Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, is the legislator who formally inquired about recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries. "I predict this (opinion) will generally fire up opponents," Park said. "My guess is that you'll see opponents trying to pass a Defense of Marriage Act in the next session."

Defense of Marriage Acts define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Such bills have been introduced in the Legislature for more than a decade, but none passed.

The Associated Press reported that Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, plans to introduce a constitutional amendment during the upcoming legislative session to define marriage as between a man and woman.

A law recognizing marriages in other states have been on New Mexico books for decades, Park said. But he said, "Some (same-sex couples) trying to utilize it have not been successful.

"At least five states and Washington D.C. are currently issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and many other states are actively considering doing the same," the opinion says. "This increases the likelihood that New Mexico residents of the same sex who married while traveling or who move to New Mexico after marrying in a jurisdiction that allows same-sex marriages will seek to have their marriages recognized in this state."

The attorney general's opinion, written by Elaine Lujan, says, "the federal (Defense of Marriage Act) authorizes states to prohibit the recognition of out-of-state, same-sex marriages. While many states have enacted such a prohibition, New Mexico has not."

Lujan noted that the attorney general in Maryland recently opined on the issue and concluded, "Maryland would likely recognize an out-of-state, same-sex marriage despite a state law that precludes same-sex marriage." Maryland has a law prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Maryland is also considering legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The New York legislature is expected to take up marriage equality legislation this year, which newly sworn in Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he would sign.

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