Legislature Super Diary from the Fun Part of Hell: Entry No. 9

Rep. David Chavez is divorced.

I bring this up not because I’m an insane jerk who revels in others’ misfortune, but because Chavez is sponsor of House Joint Resolution 22: “Marriage Defined.”

As you probably guessed immediately, HJR22 puts to voters in the coming general election whether they want an amendment in the New Mexico Constitution “to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to provide that New Mexico does not recognize marriages, civil unions or similar relationships entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or foreign jurisdiction.”

HJR22 got bitch slapped in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee this morning. Committee chair Gail Chasey tabled it (meaning it’s postponed basically forever, since the session is almost over) after commenting “My feeling is if we subject civil rights questions to voters, African Americans would not have civil rights in the south.”

I had to talk with Chavez after the hearing. I don’t understand why anyone cares if gays get married, and I really don’t understand why a politician who’s been divorced would argue for something we so often hear is about the “sanctity of marriage.”

“This is a moral issue involving defining marriage,” he said. “It has nothing to do with me. I’m not a moral compass. This is a much broader issue I’ve brought on behalf of my constituents and fellow colleagues.”

But who cares? What’s the point? Who is the state to tell people whom they can or can’t marry?

The point, Chavez said, is to “end the controversy that continues to exist.”

But who benefits from legislation refusing to acknowledge gay marriage?

“It’s biblical,” Chavez told me. “In our society it’s important to have sanctity of marriage. It needs to be defined as between a man and a woman.”

But who benefits?

“The whole conversation clarifies the definition,” he said. “It’s important the people of New Mexico get their say so. This shouldn’t be a legislative decision, it should be decided by the voters.”

Chasey didn’t think so, nor did a speaker in the committee hearing who said civil rights for a minority group should not be put up to the will of the majority.

Nor did Santa Fe city councilor Patti Bushee: “I’m an elected voice for the people of Santa Fe, given authority to create laws for people in Santa Fe, and yet in my personal life I’d be unable to marry the person I love.”

Chavez had a speaker at the hearing, too, named Tony. Tony told the committee gay marriage was becoming legal in some states because of “a very vocal minority pushing an agenda… ignoring the will of the people.”

“Don’t allow a progressive mindset or opinion to trample the sanctity of marriage,” he said.

Chavez doesn’t see a cognitive dissonance in someone who got a divorce fighting gay marriage on the sanctity-of-marriage argument. I asked about this a few different ways, and he was good enough to keep indulging me. He just wants to put the question to voters, he kept saying.

My last question was whether or not he felt this was a losing battle. Hasn’t history shown that in similar situations, the group fighting for its civil rights always prevails eventually?

He reminded me that it isn’t a civil rights issue for him. Then he said “I don’t think it’s a losing battle. These are sound principles established since the founding of this country.”

Were there gay colonists, wanting to be wed, only to be told their love for one another didn’t fit an established definition?

Happy Valentines Day, and thanks for reading The Flip Side.

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