Equality New Mexico, ACLU of New Mexico, and ProgressNow New Mexico condemn legislation allowing discrimination on the basis of personal religious belief

Local business owners, clergy members, and community organizations join in solidarity

Albuquerque, NM – December 21, 2015 – Equality New Mexico, ACLU of New Mexico, ProgressNow New Mexico, and more than 100 local business owners, clergy members, and community organizations join in solidarity to oppose House Bill 55, recently introduced by Rep. David Gallegos (R-Lea) and Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-Chavez & Lincoln). This legislation would amend the New Mexico Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Human Rights Act, as well as reverse the New Mexico Supreme Court decision in Elane Photography v. Willock, effectively allowing discrimination and service refusal against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) New Mexicans on the basis of personal religious belief.

“Religious freedom is one of our country’s fundamental values, and following the teachings of one’s faith is important, but that freedom doesn’t give any of us the right to impose our beliefs on others,” said Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo). “Government officials swear an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of their office. When public officials seek to deny services to taxpaying citizens based on their religious beliefs, they are not living up to that oath or serving the common good.”

"I’ve been a priest for 28 years,” said Fr. Rusty Smith, Executive Director of St. Martin's Hospitality Center. "Faith is at the center of my life, and freedom of religion is deeply important to me. But, this legislation would allow businesses to refuse to serve those who don’t share their beliefs. That just doesn’t sit right with me. Religion shouldn’t be used to hurt people, to impose one’s beliefs on others, or to discriminate.”

The legislation proposed by Rep. Gallegos and Rep. Espinoza would have a significant impact on New Mexico’s business community, making it possible for business owners to pick and choose the customers they serve, based solely on personal religious belief. New Mexico businesses like Villa Myriam Coffee and Griffin & Associates have already spoken out against this legislation, saying it is bad for business and bad for New Mexico.

"Local businesses like mine play an important role in our economy and in our communities; that’s why it is so important that we serve all customers and not judge or refuse to serve them because of who they are," added Joanie Griffin, CEO of Griffin & Associates. "Owning a business is hard work, but no matter how one feels about people who are gay or transgender, it is important that businesses follow the law and treat customers fairly. It’s good for business and good for the community."

"As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses that are open to the public should be open to everyone on the same terms," said Juan Certain, President and CEO of Villa Myriam Coffee. "Nobody should be turned away from a business or denied service simply because of who they are."

In addition to exclusively targeting LGBT New Mexicans by removing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the New Mexico Human Rights Act, the legislation proposed by Rep. Gallegos and Rep. Espinoza also changes the definition of “person” to include corporations – meaning, things like health care services could be denied to certain New Mexicans based on the personal religious belief of a company’s CEO.

“To think that a doctor could deny treating a sick child, simply because her parents are lesbian or transgender, is unconscionable,” said Amber Royster, Executive Director of Equality New Mexico. “LGBT New Mexicans are our friends and family members, our neighbors and colleagues – they’re us. When we go into urgent care or the emergency room, we shouldn’t have to wonder whether or not we will get the care we need for us or our family.”

“A corporation is still not a spiritual being – it does not pray or sit in the pews or bring casseroles to the congregational picnic like my family and I do,” added Joan Lamunyon Sanford, Director of New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “Real religious liberty protects the rights of women to make thoughtful decisions about whether and when to use contraception in private consultation with their doctors, their families, and their own faith – there is no place for a CEO’s beliefs in such conversations.”

The final piece of the legislation proposed by Rep. Gallegos and Rep. Espinoza would overturn the New Mexico Supreme Court decision in Elane Photography v. Willock, which confirmed that businesses open to the public in New Mexico must serve all New Mexicans, regardless of sexual orientation. In April 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal.

“Freedom of religion is important; it’s part of what makes America great,” said ACLU of New Mexico Policy Director Steven Robert Allen. “That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. However, freedom of religion does not mean we have a blank check to discriminate against people and hurt families. Discrimination isn’t just unconstitutional; it goes against the basic values of fairness and community New Mexicans hold dear.”

Pat Davis, Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico, questioned why this legislation is even a priority for House Republicans in the coming legislative session, which is only 30 days long.

“It’s frustrating that leaders elected to make our state better would continue to waste precious time and resources on things that increase the hardship of certain New Mexico families,” said Davis. “With the dismal state of employment in our state, pervasive bullying and harassment in our schools, and the gross lack of ethical leadership in our government, there are countless problems that need addressing, rather than attacking a group of people – who contribute to our communities, serve in the military, and pay their taxes – based on personal religious beliefs.”

About EQNM: Equality New Mexico is the state’s oldest and largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, and is committed to educating to change hearts and minds, advocating for those treated unfairly, and helping to empower communities and individuals to achieve a fair and inclusive New Mexico.

About ACLU of New Mexico: Since 1962, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM) has been dedicated to preserving and advancing the civil rights and legal freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

About ProgressNow New Mexico: ProgressNow New Mexico is the state's largest progressive public policy advocacy organizations with more than 100,000 subscribers statewide.

Supporting Organizations:

  • Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico
  • Strong Families New Mexico
  • Young Women United
  • Planned Parenthood New Mexico
  • Human Rights Alliance
  • Anti Defamation League
  • All Families Matter New Mexico Coalition
  • EL CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos
  • Encuentro
  • Southwest Women's Law Center
  • Prosperity Works
  • League of Women Voters New Mexico
  • Santa Fe NOW
  • PFLAG Santa Fe
  • PFLAG Las Cruces
  • PFLAG Albuquerque
  • NM GSA Network
  • Common Bond New Mexico
  • Coalition for Navajo Equality
  • SAGE Albuquerque
  • Santa Fe Mountain Center
  • Old Lesbians Organizing for Change
  • Compassion & Choices New Mexico
  • Las Cruces Coalition for Reproductive Justice
  • Las Cruces Transgender Support Network
  • Singing Out Las Cruces
  • Prevention at Play
  • Foxworth Institute for Relationship Education

ADD your organization to the list of opponents to H.B. 55!