Banning Gender Identity Discrimination in Employment
[SANTA FE, NM] - The state Legislature late Friday approved a bill to prohibit discrimination in the workplace against people based on sexual orientation or gender identification.
Shortly before midnight, the Senate voted 22-20 to concur with a House amendment on Senate Bill 28 sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque.
The measure now goes to Gov. Bill Richardson, who has said he would sign such a measure.
Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque, carried the bill in the House. She accepted a floor amendment proposed by Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, that exempted businesses that employ fewer than 15 employees from the law.
Asked if she considered the amendment as friendly, Beam responded, "Yes, in the interest of getting this finished."
The House passed the bill 32 to 26, with legislators generally voting along party lines - Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
The Senate vote also was chiefly along party lines, with Democratic Senators John Arthur Smith of Deming and Lidio Rainaldi of Gallup voting with Republicans to oppose it.
Several people waited in the House and Senate galleries wearing stickers in support of the bill.
After the Senate approved the bill, supporters cheered.
"It's taken us 12 years to get to this spot," said Linda Siegel of Santa Fe, lobbyist for the Coalition for Equality, a group that represents gays and lesbians.
"I think the practical effect will be that people who have been fired from their jobs or who think they've been discriminated against now have recourse," Siegel said.
"Before, they couldn't even file a complaint with the Human Rights Division."
Twelve other states and the District of Columbia already have laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, Siegel said.
Although there have been some complaints filed in those states, she said there hasn't been a large amount of litigation.