Super Tuesday’ for domestic partner benefits

By By Anastasia Niedrich

By Anastasia Niedrich

Tuesday was not just Super Tuesday for presidential candidates. It was also Super Tuesday for members of the LGBTQ community living in Salt Lake City.

Why was Tuesday so “super” for queers in Salt Lake City? Because the Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved the domestic partnership registry that Mayor Ralph Becker proposed on his third day in office.

Those who wish to use the registry must be each other’s sole domestic partner, be 18 or older, share financial obligations and a residence in Salt Lake City and, of course, be competent to enter into such a contract. After partners pay a $25 fee, fill out forms and have them notarized, they would be registered as domestic partners with the Salt Lake City Recorder’s Office.

The registry was intended to and does cover partners in both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, as well as those in other familial relationships. The registry is a sort of extension of the City Council’s health benefits ordinance in February 2006. The registry will allow employers to verify employees’ partnership or relationship statuses and protect against issues such as health insurance fraud.

The registry is a first in Utah, but the continuation of a growing trend nationwide. Four states, more than 72 municipal governments, numerous educational institutions and Fortune-500 businesses already have domestic partner registries.

But, like most civil-rights advances in Utah concerning the queer community, before the proposed measure even had a chance to be heard, anti-gay opponents had already mounted their offense to turn back progress in the name of “traditional morality.”

Sen. D. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, the leader and champion of most things anti-gay, proposed Senate Bill 267, Local Government Authority Amendments, in response to the Salt Lake City Council and mayor’s historic action. He proposed the bill the week before the City Council gave him or anyone else a chance to publicly hear or discuss the proposal. That’s an open mind for you.

SB 267 would prohibit cities or other municipalities from doing pretty much anything that would recognize partnerships or unions other than marriage. That means domestic partnerships, civil unions or any other non-married family relationships.

One of the senator’s stated reasons for proposing the legislation is that he believes “the registry violates the letter and spirit of both the state’s constitutional amendment and state code limiting marriage to a man and a woman.”

However, Salt Lake City attorneys and officials do not agree. According to Becker’s office, Salt Lake City has the legal authority to create the registry without violating the Utah Code regarding same-sex marriage or anything like it.

Finally, as City Council Chair Jill Remington Love put it at the hearing, “This is a compassionate ordinance that recognizes that families do not always come in the same packages.”

Becker called the registry “an opportunity for the city to provide all of its residents the same level of equality, dignity and respect.” I agree.

Allowing partners or other pairs of individuals to register their relationship and/or commitment to one another with local authorities for the purposes of determining benefits and other things just makes sense.

The registry will allow the government to treat all persons equally and with dignity regardless of whom they love or live with as far as health and some other benefits go. Further than that, employers will be able to use the registry to determine eligibility and grant benefits to employees when warranted. Businesses that provide such benefits could even refuse to grant benefits to partners or persons who fail to register and prove the status of their relationship, further lowering their costs.

Because the registry is both good for people and for business, it’s hard to understand why pro-business people, such as Buttars, would be opposed to the registry — except that they don’t want to give queers in Utah any benefits at all. It seems the possibility that committed partners would have health care or the ability to visit their sick loved ones in the hospital, for example, is “too much” for them to bear.

If treating LGBTQ people and other family members in unmarried relationships equally in regard to health care and other limited property benefits is “too much” for Buttars and other legislators who vote for SB 267, make sure you ask yourself what your values are and whether they are “too much” for you to put up with for another few years, and vote accordingly in the general election this November.

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