NM Legislation Would Boost Protections for LGBTQ Students, Others
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Legislation to close a loophole that potentially allows discrimination against LGBTQ New Mexicans will be debated by the State Legislature this session.
House Bill 207 would prohibit public entities and contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity when providing services.
Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, said the state has one of the oldest and strongest nondiscrimination laws in the country, but specific language referencing the LGBTQ community is missing.
"Legally, state departments and agencies, city and county governments and even school districts can legally discriminate in New Mexican law," Martinez explained.
During the bill's introduction, co-sponsor, Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, said it is critical to explicitly protect LGBTQ youth at a time when attacks against them are occurring across the country. Two similar bills have failed, but Martinez is hopeful the third attempt will succeed before the legislature adjourns in March.
The New Mexico bill to expand LGBTQ legal protections is in contrast to proposed laws in neighboring states such as Texas and Arizona, where lawmakers have proposed bills to restrict rights.
Martinez argued the absence of protections for transgender students and others leaves them vulnerable if agencies do not adhere to the spirit of the Human Rights Act.
"Children, Youth and Services could say for example, if they're investigating parents for child abuse, they could say, 'Oh, and by the way the parents are lesbians,' and you couldn't file a lawsuit against them in state law for discrimination because that's not prohibited," Martinez outlined.
Equality New Mexico is also supporting legislation to give 16-year-olds the right to vote in state, local, and school board elections.
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