Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Kansas: Lawrence poised to approve domestic partner registry

By Diane Silver

As the cliches note, don't count your chickens before they're hatched and most decidedly don't consider the game over until the fat lady sings. While neither of those things has happened yet, it was clear tonight that a proposal creating a domestic partner registry in Lawrence has the three votes needed to pass.

City commissioners Mike Rundle, Boog Highberger and David Schauner all expressed support for the measure. The City Commission has five members and one member, Sue Hack, was not present tonight. If passed, this proposal would make the home of the University of Kansas the only city in the state with any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. The domestic partner registry, by the way, would probably be open to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

A vote wasn't taken tonight. Instead, the commissioners told city staff to draft an ordinance and to send it on to the office of newly elected Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. The commissioners want Morrison's opinion on whether the ordinance is constitutional, given that the state amended the constitution last year to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Toni Ramirez Wheeler, interim director of the city's legal services division, said she believed a registry would be constitutional, but Mayor Mike Amyx wanted the opinion of the AG. There was no immediate word on when the ordinance would be drafted and sent to Morrison's office.

Most of the meeting was taken up by Wheeler's report and a hearing where six people spoke in favor of the registry. No one appeared in opposition. In fact, the packed room appeared to be half to two-thirds full of supporters of the proposal. The rest of the audience seemed to be attending to discuss such issues as traffic circles and neighborhood planning.

Wheeler's report is available online.

I just got back from the meeting, to which I stupidly forgot to take my laptop. Instead of live blogging, here's your report about an hour after the end of the event. It galls me to admit that the local newspaper did what this blogger forgot to do, but let me note that the Journal-World's live blogged report is here.

Note that there are a few errors in that blogged report and some fragmentary information.

"Bill N." is actually Bruce Ney, senior counsel for AT&T. He served as chair of Kansans For Fairness, which fought the constitutional ban on marriage in 2005. Bruce lives in Lawrence.

Forrest Swall is a former legislator who represented Lawrence in the Kansas House. Forrest appear for PFLAG.

Lori Messinger is an assistant professor of social welfare at KU.

I'll have more on what everyone said as soon as I can.

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