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Salt Lake City Council Passes Domestic Partnership Registry

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Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's first proposal to the city council was passed unanimously Tuesday night. The proposal, which will become law once signed by Becker, creates a domestic partner registry for unmarried cohabitating adults.

Will Carlson, manager of public policy for gay advocacy group Equality Utah, was the first to speak and began by thanking Becker and city council members for considering the creation of a registry.

"In 1984, Berkeley California was the first city in the United States to create a domestic partnership registry," he said. "Domestic partnership benefits are important in today's society. For many Utah families, health care is their greatest concern. This registry will help alleviate that burdon by signalling to employers when an employee has a family member who may be uninsured. Employers may then choose whether they will include these family members in insurance plans."

Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, also addressed the council, saying that their words and actions are important as they will be addressed on Capitol Hill.

She said that the registry is a "greatly needed step in the right direction to help familes that are really struggling for a number of reasons, and mostly because of legislation that has been passed over the past many years.

Councilmember Jill Remington Love made the motion to pass the proposal, which was seconded by Soren Simonson.

"We had to flip a coin over who would make this motion, because there were so many of us who were eager to do it," Love said. "This is a compassionate ordinance that recognizes that support systems do not come in just one package. Sometimes it may be a mother and daughter, and sometimes it may be two longtime friends who care for each other into old age and some times it may be a gay couple. Hopefully this ordinance will allow for more couples to take care of each other."

Councilmember Soren Simonson stressed the importance of the exstension of healthcare benefits in light of important legislation on Utah's Captol Hill.

"I think this will be a small step forward to try and provide health care for some who don't have it, nevertheless I think it is a significant step to try and continue to close that gap on people who cannot receive health care and other benefits from their employer because we don't have the mehchanisms in place to make that happen," he said.

Simonson also expressed his desire to not limit the registry to Salt Lake City residents so that employers could extend benefits to those outside the city, but said that would have to be brought up at a later time.

Council newcomer J.T. Martin said the support for this ordinance was overwhelming in his district.

"It's a proud day for this city and a proud day for me to be able to be a part of this important legislation," he said. 

Councilmember Carlton Christianson was the only remotely negative speaker, bringing up the possibility that the registry could bring "unintended consequences" to the city. "But I'm not smart enough to know what those will be," he said.

All eight councilmembers were present for the vote, and all eight voted for the registry. 

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, has promised legislation to stop the registry.

He has written Senate Bill 267, titled "Local Government Authority Amendments."

"They want us to write them a blank check," Buttars told the Salt Lake Tribune. "How brazen they are is unbelievable."

Buttars' bill "prohibits county and municipal legislative bodies from creating or establishing a registry or any other means to define, identify, or recognize a domestic partnership, civil union, or other domestic relationship other than marriage for any purpose; and invalidates any ordinance, resolution, rule, regulation, or other action of a county or municipal legislative body in violation of the prohibition."

The bill is now being assessed for fiscal analysis.

According to the report presented to the council, in order to participate in the registry, two individuals seeking domestic partner status must each declare that they are each other's domestic partner, be age 18 or older and unmarried, show common financial obligation, and be cohabitating.

Joint financial obligation would be proven by offering three of the following documents:

  • Joint obligation, mortgage, lease or vehicle ownership
  • Life insurance policy, retirement beneftis account or will designating the domestic partner as a beneficiary or executor
  • A mutually-granted power of attorney
  • Proof showing the partner is authorized to sign for the purposes of the other's bank or credit account
  • Proof of join bank or credit account

A "Certificate of Domestic Partnership" will be awarded attesting that the two individuals are in a relationship of "mutual support, caring and commitment; and are responsible for each other's physical and financial welfare; and have the present intention to remain in that relationship.

 The report states that the proposal is consistent with the city's recently-enacted "Adult Designee" ordinance in that it does not imply a romantic relationship between domestic partners.

Those registered as a domestic partnership would be allowed to use or access any city facility's benefits that are otherwise afforded to married couples, such as family pool passes. Domestic partners would be allowed health care visitation in and health care facility within Salt Lake City limits where immediate family or spouses would be allowed visitation. The report also states that companies looking to provide domestic partner benefits to their employees could use the registry as proof of the relationship.

The registry will be paid for through registration fees and not through tax-payer expense.

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