ACLU Applauds New Mexico Governor for Signing Genetic Protection Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
April 7, 2005 12:00 am

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SANTA FE, NM – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico today lauded Governor Bill Richardson for signing a genetic protection bill into law that will ban discrimination based on a person’s genetic code in employment, housing, and credit.

The bill, which was signed by the governor yesterday, was sponsored by Representative Danice Picraux and sailed through the House with a vote of 65-0 and the Senate with a vote of 38-0. The passage of the bill, known as the Genetic Privacy Act, is a culmination of years of commitment and advocacy for genetic protection on behalf of Representative Picraux.

“We applaud the New Mexico State Legislature and the governor for recognizing the importance of providing safeguards against genetic discrimination by passing this cutting edge legislation,” said ACLU of New Mexico’s Executive Director Peter Simonson. “The genetic revolution has a vast range of potential implications for American life. New reproductive technologies are profoundly affecting the lives of women and children and represent new categories of reproductive choices, and biotechnology is transforming health care, insurance, employment, and the criminal justice system, and raises profound legal issues associated with genetic discrimination, privacy and intellectual property.”

The ACLU nationally and in New Mexico is a leading advocate for strong privacy laws. On August 21, 2004, the ACLU of New Mexico hosted a Data-Privacy Conference in Santa Fe that sparked a groundswell of interest on privacy issues in the state.

The ACLU led a coalition of organizations committed to protecting privacy in supporting several bills this legislative session. These groups include the New Mexico AARP, BioLaw Group, Foundation for Open Government, League of Women Voters and the New Mexico Press Association.

The Genetic Privacy Act recognizes that it is a violation of civil liberties for employers, landlords, or financial institutions to make decisions based on the genetic traits of a particular race, religion, national origin, sex or other group because it would have a disparate impact upon members of that group.

“Decisions should be made on the basis of individual ability and character, not on the basis of stereotypes or generalizations about the groups to which an individual belongs,” said Simonson. “The fact that some, or even a majority, of the members of a particular group have a particular genetic trait does not mean that all members of the group have that trait.”

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