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A bill whose time has come

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By Ralph Damiani

The New Mexico House has passed a bill establishing forms of domestic partnerships in the state, allowing non-traditional couples to have the same rights and benefits as married couples.We think this is a matter whose time has come. Sadly, the bill is stalled in the Senate, where a similar domestic partnership proposal stalled last year.We agree with supporters that this is simply a matter of fairness and simply offers basic legal protections to same-sex couples unable to marry as well as opposite-sex couples, many of whom are senior citizens and people with disabilities, that choose not to marry for financial reasons.While no one is hollering that many people remain unmarried to protect themselves from the government, the government should then not force them to lose other benefits of being a couple.We think the arguments by opponents that the bill would undermine the legal framework and “sanctity” of marriage fall short.One can argue that marriage is in trouble without this bill – just look at divorce rates.While we would argue that marriage is a different thing, it should not be used as a wedge to prevent people from enjoying what should be their rights.And if, by some logic, somehow this ends up being considered as “gay marriage,” so be it. Who is harmed?If the legislation is enacted, New Mexico will join 10 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing domestic partnerships.Under the proposal, domestic partners would have a right to obtain medical coverage through their partners’ health insurance plan or a right to visit a partner in a hospital.Other benefits include the right to take family medical leave to care for a partner who is ill, the authority to make end-of-life decisions for a partner, property rights and a partner’s pension and inheritance rights.We see this issue as one of fairness. And to us, this simply seems the fair – and right – thing to do.