Speakers defend Lawrence registry

House committee considers bill targeting domestic partnerships

? Several Lawrence residents Thursday testified against a bill that would prevent the city of Lawrence from establishing a domestic partnership registry.

“This isn’t a game; this is our lives,” Deb Taylor told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. “My rights are being taken away before I even get them.”

But state Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, said his proposed ban would keep state law on domestic relationships uniform and protect the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

The Lawrence City Commission is considering the establishment of a registry that would recognize domestic partnerships of same-sex and opposite-sex couples who aren’t married.

“The net result may well be an erosion or hollowing out of the marriage amendment,” Kinzer said of Lawrence’s proposal. “Indeed, I do not think it unlikely that this is exactly what some proponents of the Lawrence ordinance have in mind.”

The constitutional amendment, approved by a statewide vote in 2005, recognizes marriage only between one man and one woman.

Committee Chairman Arlen Siegfried, R-Olathe, said he didn’t know how he would handle Kinzer’s bill.

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.”

Siegfried said the critical question was whether the home rule authority of cities allowed the establishment of local domestic partnership registries.

“It’s not so much a gay marriage and domestic partnerships issue to me as it is a home rule issue,” he said. “I have some studying to do on home rule issues.”

Siegfried said if he decides that the committee should work on the bill, it will be scheduled for the week after next.

Local voices

In addition to several Lawrence residents testifying against the bill, Mayor Mike Amyx wrote a letter to the committee asking that it reject Kinzer’s measure.

“Whether the City Commission decides to pursue such an ordinance, is a matter best left to local elected officials,” Amyx said.

The city is awaiting an opinion from the state attorney general’s office on the legality of such a domestic registry ordinance.

Kinzer, a member of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, was the only person who testified in favor of his bill.

Taylor, who attended Thursday’s hearing with her partner, Jennifer Kopp, said she resented Kinzer’s insinuation that advocates of gays and lesbians were seeking approval of the Lawrence registry as a way to open a legal attack on the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“This isn’t a game,” Taylor said. She said the registry also would help gay and lesbian couples to be with their partners if they are hospitalized.

At one point, civil rights attorney Pedro Irigonegaray asked everyone in the audience who was homosexual or had a family member or friend who was homosexual to stand up. About two dozen people stood.

“There’s no reason to do this,” he said referring to Kinzer’s bill. “Other than to cause hurt.”


Several of those testifying against Kinzer’s bill said the domestic partnership registry was needed so that couples in unmarried relationships could secure employee-provided health benefits for their partners.

“We want people in Lawrence to be able to access those health insurance policies easily,” said Maggie Childs, chairwoman of the Kansas Equality Coalition of Lawrence-Douglas County.

But Kinzer said: “To the extent a private company requires a formalized domestic partnership for extension of insurance or other benefits, that is quite frankly the private company’s problem.”

Others testifying against the House bill included Bruce Ney of Lawrence, senior counsel for AT&T; Steve Maceli, owner of Maceli’s Catering in Lawrence; Bill Dunn of Wichita; and Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas also filed testimony opposed to the bill saying the proposed Lawrence registry was “a local government issue” that “poses no threat or harm to married couples or any other citizens.”