A sad and stupid day today, comrades.
House Bill 9, aka The Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities Act, was tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The good folks at Equality New Mexico have been working their asses off for months, years actually, and citizens from all over the state have been lobbying and volunteering. We spent hours sitting in the Senate gallery yesterday, and another few hours today, only to have the bill killed. Today there were some two-hundred of us, next to just thirty or forty opposition.
The bill was basically sabotaged by Senator Lidio G Rainaldi, a Democrat inexplicably siding with the Republicans. He put us through a solid hour of meaningless filibustering, in which he asked deliberately inane questions, insisted his questions weren’t being answered when they clearly were, insisted his statements and declarations were actually questions, and was rude to the bill’s sponsor and her expert witness, and to a citizen who’d given testimony. He called the citizen by the wrong name a half dozen times — after being corrected by both the Chairman and the citizen herself — and, since she’d said the bill would benefit the seniors she works with (which it would; some senior and disabled people can’t get married because they would lose the benefits they need to survive), he accused her of hypocrisy because, get this: she was supporting this bill and not trying to make all nursing homes free. About half an hour in we actually started to laugh after each thing that he said.
Many supporters gave beautiful testimonies. We had a few reverends reading Bible quotes about love and explaining that no engaged couple would decide not to get married just because HB 9 passed. A young woman whose husband died last year in Iraq urged the Senators to pass it, saying she didn’t want her husband to have died in vain. Another woman recounted through sobs the terrible story of how, when her partner of 13 years died of a heart attack in Mexico just a month ago, she couldn’t make arrangements because their relationship wasn’t legally recognized; instead, she had to contact her partner’s 19-year-old son, tell him his mother was dead, and make him call the US Embassy.
The opposition’s speakers didn’t make much sense. A woman stood up and cried about how, since she is a wife and mother, other couples shouldn’t be legally recognized. She made some cryptic and nonsensical comments.
“My hands are are clean!”
I don’t actually remember what the other opposition speakers said. I was chanting to myself to try to block their bullshit out.
“Your words will roll right off of me, your words will roll right off of me, your words will roll right off…”
The vote was 6:4 to table the bill. Emily and I lobbied for an earlier version last year; it lost on the Senate floor by just one vote.
At one point, the Chairman, Senator Cisco McSorley — a strong ally of ours — asked that all those opposed to the bill stand. Just thirty or so stood. I know for a fact that some people who came to oppose didn’t have the guts to stand against us when the time came. They were cowardly and out-numbered. One of them was sitting next to my girlfriend and me; I worried she would vomit on our interlocking hands. You would have, too. That was the look on her face.
The Senator asked that the supporters stand. All of us stood, rising in a wave that was poised to surge and break over the balcony, rolling out onto the Senate floor. My heart was swollen in my chest. We were a united front.
The opposing Senators apparently didn’t give a shit about us, the people, their to make our will known. I almost wish I could say that if people had lobbied harder, if we’d turned out in greater numbers, things would have the other way. This would be false, though. We couldn’t have asked for better numbers. We were there in hundreds, out-numbering the opposition by something close to five to one. Five to one!
But they did not care. They did not care that we had woken up early on a Saturday morning to attend their meeting. They did not care that so many has been losing sleep for weeks, working and working. They didn’t not care about the weeping woman who has lost the love of her life. They did not care about the babies squirming in the arms of their parents, “Support HB 9” stickers looking huge across their little chests. They did not care about the dead soldier. They did not care about the brave men who stood to tell them that religious people support fairness, too. They did not care about the sick and weeping people standing outside afterward. They did not care about the citizens who elected them.
This is not liberty.
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