Lawmakers in the New Mexico county of Doña Ana are backing legislation to create a gay domestic partner law in the state. The county is the second most populous in the state.

At a Tuesday meeting in Las Cruces, county commissioners expressed unanimous support for the legislation, reports the Las Cruces Sun-News.

The Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act, introduced as Senate Bill 12 by Senator Cisco McSorley in the state Legislature, has been crafted to give committed gay and straight couples marriage-like benefits.

“Domestic partners shall be subject to the same legal obligations and responsibilities and shall be entitled to the same protections and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the laws of the state to spouses, former spouses, widows or widowers, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule or regulation, policy, common law or any other source of civil or criminal law,” the bill reads.

“This has been before the Legislature before and has almost passed,” said Dan Tapper, a member the Las Cruces chapter of the gay-affirming group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), who spoke at the meeting. “Hopefully, with a slight change in the composition of our delegation, we might be able to have it passed.”

New Mexico falls in the small category of states that have not acted for or against gay marriage. The state has come close to passing a domestic partner law in the past and the state's governor, Bill Richardson, has promised to sign it. The state has outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity since 2003.

At yesterday's meeting, Doña Ana county commissioners did not vote on the resolution put forward by county commissioner Karen Perez, but instead voted on a package of items that included the resolution calling for support of the domestic partner law.

There was little opposition evident at the meeting. But passage of a domestic partner law in 2009 in New Mexico is far from certain.

The county's resolution will be hand-delivered to the state Legislature today, the first day of scheduled hearings on the bill.