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AG’s Opinion On Same-Sex Marriage May Galvanize Opponents In New Mexico Legislature

Yesterday, Gary King — New Mexico’s Attorney General — issued an opinion asserting that the state should recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Supporters of marriage cheered the decision, but conceded that it would not likely change state law, given Governor Susanna Martinez’s opposition to same-sex marriage. But today, the Albuquerque Journal is reporting that King’s opinion may actually galvanize opponents to push through a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman:

But Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said Wednesday that King’s opinion has galvanized opponents of same-sex marriage and could help his efforts to get a measure through the 2011 session making such marriages illegal. “People are energized,” said Sharer, who repeatedly, over the past decade, has pushed legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The lawmaker said he had planned to reintroduce the so-called Defense of Marriage Act even before King’s office issued the opinion.

He plans to propose both a bill changing state law and an amendment to the state Constitution in the legislative session that begins Jan. 18. They would say the only marriages valid in New Mexico are the unions of one man and one woman. “I think we would have no obligation to recognize marriage not in accordance with that. … I think the public policy would be very clear at that point,” Sharer said.

Conservative lawmakers have offered at least six different anti-gay marriage initiatives between 2003 and 2010. In 2007, for instance, Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment to define marriage and in 2005 offered a bill that specifically banned same-sex marriages in the state. There are currently 34 Democrats and 36 Republicans in the New Mexico House and 27 Democrats and 15 Republicans in the Senate.

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On Tuesday, Martinez told a local newspaper that she was reviewing “whether to keep benefits for domestic partners of state workers,” which had been granted though executive order by Former Governor Bill Richardson in 2003. “Any determination on domestic partner benefits for state workers would come at a later date,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell told the New Mexican in an e-mail on Tuesday.