By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
Eighty Bailey County residents had cast their vote by Friday afternoon on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in their state, according to court Clerk Paula Benton.
Texas statutes already prohibit same-sex marriage, but the constitutional amendment — which defines marriage as a union only between one man and one woman — would prevent a judge from reinterpreting the law, said Kathy Walt, a spokesperson for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“This constitutional amendment protects the state from a future activist judge who may want to legislate from the bench. The governor supports (the amendment) because he believes the vast majority of Texans support traditional families. He wants to protect the sanctity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Walt said.
Election Day is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Texas. Early voting ends Friday.
Curry County’s next election is in June.
Benton said Bailey County’s early voting has been good “for a constitutional amendment vote.”
Opponents of the amendment said it would affect about 43,000 same-sex couples in Texas and compare it to historical discrimination against blacks, women, and Jews, according a Houston Chronicle story.
Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, is an opponent of the amendment. He is quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying the amendment would cut off sectors of the population from the benefits of marriage.
“We’re going to carve out a whole class of individuals and say you cannot share those benefits,” Shapleigh said, according to the Chronicle.
Texas is one of 15 states that ban gay marriage by law or constitutional provision. States that recognize same-sex marriage, or allow same-sex civil unions, include Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts. New Mexico law defines marriage as a contract between two parties and does not mention sex. However, New Mexico laws imply only opposite-sex couples can marry.
Most of the Texans that Bailey County Treasurer Donna Kirk has spoken with are opposed to same-sex marriage, and they want “to make sure their votes reflect that,” Kirk said.
A recent New Mexico Legislative session addressed the definition of marriage as the Texas amendment does. However, the movement to change the definition died at the Senate level. The issue, though, is likely to arise again, said Joan LaMunyon-Sanford of Albuquerque, who is director of the New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
LaMunyon-Sanford said same-sex marriage opponents are often simply afraid of change.
The NMCRC believes “families are created in many ways,” LaMunyon-Sanford said, repeating a phrase printed on its Web site.
“To us, the definition of marriage is a covenant relationship — when two people care for each other as much as they care for themselves. In that type of relationship, gender doesn’t matter,” LaMunyon-Sanford said.