Roman Catholic bishops in New Mexico have united against a bill that would recognize gay and lesbian couples with domestic partnerships.

“The opposition to the proposed legislation is based on language that could serve as the foundation for the court's approval of same-sex marriage,” the bishops said in a statement released by the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops (NMCCB).

Last year, the group waged war against a similar measure that was defeated when ten Democratic senators crossed the aisle to join all fifteen Republicans.

The bishops said that recognition of gay unions would affect “levels of education and religious freedom,” a similar position taken by leading anti-gay marriage advocacy groups, including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage. NOM has successfully used the argument that gay marriage laws hurt children (by subjecting them to government mandated gay sex instruction) to win repeal of gay marriage laws in Maine and California.

In its third outing, the bill faces a steep incline to passage. Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Senate have weighed down the bill with extra committee hearings during a tight legislative session scheduled to end in two weeks.

Much like Washington State, the bloated 816-page bill seeks to grant nearly every right and obligation of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Lawmakers in Washington State, however, gradually expanded on a minimal domestic partnership law approved in 2007.

The bill has the support of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat.

In their statement, the bishops said their position on the bill should not be interpreted as anti-gay.

“At the same time that the bishops oppose the proposed legislation they make it clear that they are against any unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons and condemn emphatically hate crimes directed at anyone, including people of same-sex orientation.”