What Ugly Looks Like

 

Earlier this week, in an ugly display of bigotry, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed legislation that would have helped same-gender spouses and domestic partners of gay military personnel obtain professional licenses in New Mexico, while moments later she signed an identical bill that made the same help available to spouses of heterosexual military couples.

The legislation expedites the licensing process for spouses of military personnel or recent veterans who relocate to New Mexico and who need to become licensed in order to work — such as teachers or counselors.  The expedited licensing process will allow them to quickly begin to work. State agencies will be required to issue a license to professionals related to military personnel “as soon as practicable,” if the applicant is already licensed in another state.

But related to military personnel does not include same-gender spouses or domestic partners in the legislation that is now law — a deliberate and exclusionary choice made by this governor. Salon reports, “red tape will still delay same-sex spouses of active duty and veteran service members looking for work in the state, creating a two-tiered system for gay and straight spouses.”

Let’s be clear. Gay service members extend themselves on behalf of the United States and the American people, including New Mexicans, every bit as much as straight members of the military. If, God forbid, they are injured or maimed, they too have to wait every minute of the over 270 days that it now takes on average to start a regular flow of benefits from the Veterans Administration. Yet Governor Martinez, given the choice, decided that she would saddle gay service members and their families with an additional burden as they struggle to provide for one another, just because she could. That is called animus — an usually prejudiced and often spiteful or malevolent ill will.

And then she had the brass to claim:

When military families and recent veterans move to New Mexico, we have to make it easier for them to support themselves and get to work. This legislation will end the burdensome process of requiring these already-licensed nurses, teachers, counselors, and other professionals to start over from the beginning when they are transferred to our state. I’m pleased that we are now removing this red tape and making it easier for our troops, veterans, and military spouses to get to work right away.

What she neglected to add was, unless you’re gay.

New Mexico’s constitution and marriage statute do not explicitly forbid same-gender marriage and do not explicitly define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Two years ago, the state’s attorney general issued an opinion that same-gender marriages performed in other states could be recognized in New Mexico, and while an opinion does not carry the force of law, there is no statute to the contrary.

Martinez’s choice to veto legislation that specifically included honorable gay members of the United States military and instead sign legislation that excludes them from the benefits enjoyed by their straight counterparts needs to be called out for what it is. It is bigotry. It is animus. It’s what ugly looks like.

Sources:

New Mexico governor vetoes bill to help families of gay soldiers (Salon)

N.M. Governor Vetoes Bill to Help Gay Military Families (Advocate)

Santa Fe Mayor Urges Allowing Same-Sex Marriage in New Mexico

NY Vets See Increase in Wait Time for Benefits

Disability-Compensation Claims for Veterans Lag as ‘VA Backlog’ Worsens

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