Topeka — The city of Lawrence would be prohibited from starting a domestic partnership registry under legislation filed by a state lawmaker.
The bill's author, Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said Thursday the proposed registry in Lawrence raised numerous legal questions.
"Domestic relationship law is really within the state purview," said Kinzer, who is considered one of the most conservative members of the Legislature.
House Bill 2299 would prevent any city or county from establishing a domestic partner registry that "recognizes any domestic partnership not recognized under state law."
Kinzer said those who want to change the law to allow domestic partnership registries should seek a statewide change from the Kansas Legislature.
The registry measure under consideration by the Lawrence City Commission would recognize domestic partnerships of same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are not married.
Supporters say the registry wouldn't confer any new legal rights to the couples. But it would provide the governmental documentation needed for people who work for companies that extend health insurance to workers' partners to get those benefits, they say.
Kinzer said he was concerned the registry could run afoul of the voter-approved state constitutional amendment in 2005 that recognizes marriage only between one man and one woman.
He said an instance could arise where under the proposed Lawrence registry a same-sex couple would not have the same rights - because of the state constitutional amendment - as an opposite sex, unmarried couple.
"This bill will avoid conflicts and litigation that could develop out of the passage of inconsistent domestic partnership laws across the state," he said.
A majority of Lawrence city commissioners have voiced approval for the registry, but they have decided to seek an opinion from the Kansas attorney general on whether it would violate the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
Commissioner Boog Highberger said Kinzer shouldn't interfere with a local issue.
"Kansas has strong home rule laws. I would prefer we be allowed to make our own decisions," Highberger said.
Maggie Childs, chairwoman of the local chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition and a proponent of Lawrence registry, said she was disappointed by Kinzer's action.
"I think it is really sad that he won't let Lawrence take the initiative to create a registry to help unmarried couples access health insurance protection offered by private employers," Childs said.
On Kinzer's argument that the registry should be a statewide issue, she said: "I don't buy that. In this country, usually the default position is local control.
"Ordinary people get to choose what their community looks like," she said.
Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, described Kinzer's proposal as "meddling in a local issue."
"I don't see why the Legislature needs to address that issue," he said. "What is the state interest in preventing the city of Lawrence from creating a domestic partnership registry?"
The bill has been referred to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. A public hearing hasn't been scheduled, but Kinzer is confident one will occur.
Domestic Partnerships Registry
- Domesticpartnership registry moves ahead (01-10-07)
- BLOG:The Lawrence City Commission debates the domestic partnership registry(01-09-07)
- Domesticpartnership registry would be 1st in state (01-08-07)
- CityHall staff report on domestic partnership registration
- Cityof Boulder's Domestic Partnership Registration Program
- Anexample of what the registry could look like (12-23-06)
- Domesticpartner registery considered (12-22-06)
- Lawmakersapprove bill to legalize civil unions (12-15-06)
- Brownback:Judge should avoid gay marriage cases (12-09-06)
- Gaymarriage ban goes to high court (12-01-06)