Third time was not the charm for gay and lesbian couples in New Mexico, where ten Democratic senators crossed the aisle to join all fifteen Republican senators in defeating a bill that would have created gay and straight domestic partnerships in the state.

Senate Bill 12, sponsored by Senator Cisco McSorley, a Democrat from Albuquerque, was voted down by a vote of 25 to 17 today.

The New Mexico House, which has passed similar measures in previous sessions, will most likely not have a full vote on the measure.

If passed, the bill would have granted committed gay and lesbian couples marriage-like benefits.

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.

Gay activists were counting on composition changes in the Senate to work in their favor this year. But the result was disaster. Supporters had in fact lost ground when compared to 2007 results, when the measure lost by a single vote. In 2008, the bill died in a Senate committee.

Senator Bernadette Sanchez, the Democrat who broke the deadlock in committee by voting in favor of a full vote after “taking a walk” on the first tally, voted against the measure. (“Taking a walk” is when a legislator excuses himself/herself from the chamber to avoid voting on a bill. Sanchez denies she ditched the vote; she claims she was pulled away by an important phone call.)

Sanchez was joined by another nine Democrats, they were: Carlos Cisneros, Pete Campos, Timothy Jennings, Lynda Lovejoy, Richard Martinez, George Munoz, John Pinto, John Arthur Smith and David Ulibarri.

The New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops had expressed strong opposition to the bill.