Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kansas: A brief outline of how a domestic partner registry could work in Lawrence

By Diane Silver

Details of Lawrence's proposed domestic partner registry are still being determined, but a general outline of how it might work emerged from Tuesday night's City Commission meeting.

The registry would not automatically grant any of the legal rights married couples enjoy to same-sex couples and their children.

However, registration would probably exempt families headed by same-sex couples from Lawrence's ordinance limiting the number of unrelated people who can live in one household. That ordinance currently makes it illegal for a family that includes a same-sex couple, a child and an elderly parent to live together within city limits.

Registration could also be used as proof to employers, insurance companies and others that a family headed by a same-sex couple actually is a family and, thus, eligible for benefits. However, city commissioners seemed clear that they did not want to require local employers to offer benefits such as health insurance to registered partners.

Other possible details of the registry, which would be run by the city clerk, include:
  • Opening the registry to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples.
  • Requiring a fee to register, although that size of the fee wasn't discussed.
  • Requiring a couple to provide certain kinds of proof that the couple is actually a domestic partnership. Such proof could take the form of documents showing financial transactions carried out by the couple as a couple.
The City Commission did not discuss whether residents of other cities in Kansas could come to Lawrence and register. However, such an option could be offered.

As I wrote last night, we do appear to have the votes for the registry to become law. The next step is for city staff to draft an ordinance and then to submit it to Attorney General Paul Morrison's office for a review. Mayor Mike Amyx asked for the review in light of the 2005 passage of the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

I'll post a copy of the draft ordinance as soon as it becomes available. I hope to post more details on Tuesday night's discussion and testimony within the next few days, but now I'm off to pay the mortgage on my day job.

By the way, the Lawrence Journal-World's coverage of the meeting was generally accurate, but the newspaper certainly underplayed the significance of Maggie Childs and her "local group."

Maggie leads the Lawrence Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition. The Equality Coalition is a unified statewide organization that works for fair laws for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Kansans. The Equality Coalition has chapters stretching from Johnson County to Salina, Wichita and Southwest Kansas, and it is a direct outgrowth of the group formed to fight the marriage ban in 2005.

In the name of full disclosure, I helped organize the Equality Coalition and have been a member of the Lawrence Chapter board, although I'm not currently serving.

No comments: