Chat about the new domestic partnership registry with Lori Messinger
At 10 am on August 1st, the Lawrence-Douglas County Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition will host registrations for the first domestic partnership registry in the state of Kansas. Using computers set up in the City Commission meeting chambers, unmarried couples will come to Lawrence City Hall to register as domestic partners. Lori Messinger, a member of the coalition, will take your questions.
This might help some people understand the constitutionality of the registry:
The test used by Kansas courts in determining whether a city ordinance conflicts with a state statute or constitutional provision is the test used in Junction City v. Lee. That test is “whether the ordinance permits or licenses that which the statute forbids or prohibits that which the statute authorizes.” Using this test, it is clear that the Lawrence registry does not permit that which the Marriage Amendment forbids or prohibit that which the Marriage Amendment authorizes.
The Marriage Amendment prohibits cities and counties in Kansas from recognizing any relationship, other than marriage, “as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage.” The Lawrence registry does not entitle domestic partners “to the rights or incidents of marriage.” It simply allows domestic partners to register with the City of Lawrence. The right to register is not a “right or incident of marriage.” Furthermore, the ordinance does not confer any other rights whatsoever. While private companies may use the ordinance to allow the domestic partners of employees to receive health benefits, the Marriage Amendment does not prohibit private employers from extending those benefits to the domestic partners of employees. The registry certainly does not require private employers to extend benefits to domestic partners.
Since the Lawrence registry does not conflict in any way with the Marriage Amendment, the City of Lawrence has not unconstitutionally exercised its home rule authority in trying to enact a domestic partnership registry ordinance.
Hello. This is 6News Director Cody Howard. I will be moderating today’s chat. Lori has arrived at the News Center and we will start in just a couple minutes.
Thanks for having me here. Please bear with me. I am not a great typist!
what are the benefits of registering? Do you get any legal rights?
There are no legal rights attached to the registry. Some people who work for businesses that offer domestic partner benefits will be able to access them more easily.
Some of the people who registered did it more for personal reasons–to be recognized by the City of Lawrence. That official recognition is very meaningful, emotionally, to some of the registrants.
It appears as if there is a lot of fear that somehow this changes the world for the worst. It seems a bit kooky. Why do you think some people are in an uproar over this?
Why does it cost $75?
Re: people’s fear, I am not sure what that is about. I think change is scary for people. As you know, this registry really won’t change the world. It will just make life a little easier for the people of Lawrence living in unmarried couples/families.
The cost of the registry has been explained to me by the City Clerk and the Mayor as reflecting the cost of researching the ordinance, getting legal advice, and implementing the actual registry. Also, it is front-loaded, in that it costs to register, but not to later “de-register.”
So when is the City going to offer domestic partner benefits to employees?
I have not heard that the City is pursuing that. It is certainly something that they could consider in the future. The cost of domestic partner benefits has been shows in numerous studies to be fairly low. However, providing partner benefits has a big pay-off in recruitment and retention. But again, I have not heard that this is being considered by the City at this time.
Will this registry be published in the Journal World just like marriage licenses and divorces? once when they register, and then again if they un-register?
Journal-World Managing Editor Dennis Anderson offers this response:
We will run the city’s domestic partnership registry listings in the On The Record file in our news section. We will not be running the listings in Society because it is not the purpose of the registry to recognize the partnership as a marriage or civil union.
Will the registry be open only to Lawrence residents?
Yes, the registry is only open to Lawrence residents who have lived togther in the city for 60 consecutive days prior to registering.
While trying to get this on the books in Lawrence, what challenges arose due to the state’s same-sex marriage amendment passed in 2005?
The City Commissioners were concerned that someone might challenge the registry based upon the anti-marriage amendment. So, they formally requested an opinion from the Attorney General about the legality of the proposed Lawrence ordinance. The Attorney General assured them that the ordinance was proper and did not conflict with the amendment. Moreover, it met the standards for the city’s home rule.
I don’t have a question, but want to thank you for all the work you do Lori! My partner and I just registered online.
Congratulations, Chris! This was a team effort–all of the members of the Lawrence-Douglas County Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition worked very hard to help this day happen. We also can’t overlook the courage and wisdom of the City Commissioners and the City Staff. They have been great. Thanks for your appreciation–I will pass it along! Peace to you.
Are you aware of any other cities in Kansas attempting to enact an ordinance similar to what Lawrence now has?
I am not aware of any cities that are very far along in the process of enacting such an ordinance. However, I will not be surprised to see a few more pop up across Kansas. This kind of city service is not very costly to the city, and it makes a big difference for residents, businesses, and the community as a whole.
What’s on the horizon for the Kansas Equality Commission?
The statewide organization has been very effective in lobbying for anti-bullying legislation (which was signed into law just the other day). We are looking forward to the next legislative session for bills to support and bills we need to keep from being passed.
Locally, the KEC chapter in Lawrence-Douglas County will be approaching different agencies and organizations (for example, the local hospital) and asking them to recognize the registry. And we will be holding a viewing party to watch the upcoming debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. That debate will be the first presidential debate in the country to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.
That’s all for today’s chat. Our thanks to Lori for joining us.
Thanks for having me on this wonderful day!