News (USA)

New Mexico updates anti-discrimination law to include LGBTQ+ protections

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a 2017 rally
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a 2017 rallyPhoto: AFGE/via Wikipedia

New Mexico’s state legislature has passed a bill intended to update the state’s existing anti-discrimination law to explicitly include LGBTQ+ protections. The Human Rights Modernization Act now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) for final approval. Grisham is expected to sign the bill.

Introduced in January by state Reps. Kristina Ortez (D) and Andrea Romero (D) and out state Sen. Carrie Hamblen (D), the new law establishes a broader slate of protections for LGBTQ+ people by defining gender and sex in state law and expanding existing definitions of sexual orientation and gender identity.

It also closes a loophole that has allowed tax-funded entities to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in New Mexico. The Human Rights Modernization Act prohibits school districts, government agencies, and public contractors from discriminating based on sex, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

Earlier this week, Equality New Mexico’s executive director Marshall Martinez, noting the “firestorm” of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the U.S., called passing the bill “a critical step to protecting LGBTQ youth” in the state.

“We are finally saying to Queer and Trans New Mexicans – we see you, we support you, and we will protect you,” he said. “New Mexico will no longer support, or allow tax-payer-funded discrimination because of this effort.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 420 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in states across the country already this year, exceeding the number filed in 2022. Many of those bills target transgender youth in particular. Eight anti-trans bills have already become law in six states in 2023.

In New Mexico, the debate around the Human Rights Modernization Act centered mostly on trans youth. Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature clashed over whether trans minors should be allowed to use locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity, The Hill reports. Attempts by Republicans to include religious exemptions in the bill were rejected.

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