New Mexico Lawmakers Announce “Religious Liberty” Bill To Legalize Anti-Gay Discrimination

Two New Mexico lawmakers have pre-filed a bill that would give state business owners the right to refuse business to gay, lesbian and transgender people and their families on the basis of religious freedom.

Republican Reps. David Gallegos and Nora Espinoza are the sponsors of the bill, HB55.

“The intent of the bill would be to ensure people would not be forced to operate their business that was in a way inconsistent with their religious beliefs,” said Rep. Gallegos in a Friday interview.

Such a law would have allowed businesses like Elaine Photography to get away with refusing to photograph a lesbian couple’s wedding. In that case, the couple took the refusal to court, claiming the photography company discriminated against them, and won.

“We are hoping that it would reduce the lawsuits, like you are saying with the photographer, because it would keep everyone on an even playing field,” Rep. Gallegos said.

But state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, says the bill would create anything but an even playing field. He says it’s blatant discrimination.

“This bill goes a lot further than just wedding photography. This bill would allow any profession, any person to deny services to people because they are lesbian or gay,” Sen. Candelaria said. “That includes doctors and pediatricians treating children whose parents are gay or lesbian.”

Sen. Candelaria claims the bill would also allow people to refuse services to someone based on their sexual orientation.

“In New Mexico, I would like to think that we value treating people with respect and we value treating people equally and fairly,” he said. “That’s why I find this bill to be so troubling.”

The legislative session starts in January. The 2008 ruling in the photography case ruled the company’s actions were a violation of the state’s Human Rights Act, which the bill could be in violation of.

Reps. David Gallegos and Nora Espinoza