SANTA FE (KRQE) - An attempt at legalizing same sex marriage will not be going to New Mexico voters after a House committee rejected the idea during an emotional hearing Thursday.
The question would have appeared on the 2014 ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, but five Republicans and two Democrats put a stop to that.
"All the rights that we hold dear are in the Constitution," sponsor Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said during the morning hearing.
Under the proposal, religious institutions would not be required to marry couples if they were morally opposed.
Activists dropped off thousands of rainbow-colored petitions in favor of the resolution, and a lesbian couple together more than three decades spoke out in favor as well.
There was plenty of opposition too.
"If you as a body sanctify that, bring that into our country, you are guilty," one man said.
When it came time to vote, Democratic Reps. Debbie Rodella of Española and Mary Helen Garcia of Las Cruces voted to table the amendment.
"These people, gays, already have the option to be in a relationship, but I do not believe in marriage," Garcia said.
"I don't believe we need to define marriage either way in the New Mexico Constitution, and I'm just hoping the federal government can come up with a solution for us," said Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park.
House speaker and committee member Ken Martinez, D-Grants, disagreed.
"The Constitution has always been a document with regard to equality, and this is an equality issue," Martinez said.
The vote left Egolf in tears.
"If we don't do this and those folks want to get married, and they go and apply for a license, they'll be denied," Egolf said. "It's very cold comfort; it's no comfort to them to say we didn't think it was appropriate to let the people have their say."
If the name of Rep. Mary Helen Garcia sounds familiar it's because she was the lone Democrat that helped table another Democrat-backed constitutional amendment this week. That one would have asked voters to decide if increases in the minimum wage should be tied to inflation.
Two U.S. Supreme Court cases could affect the debate on same-sex marriage here in New Mexico.
One case questions the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that declares the word "marriage" only applies to heterosexual marriages.
The other case concerns an amendment to the California Constitution that specifically disallows same-sex marriage.
The high court will take up the issues next month.
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