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City expresses support for domestic partnership registry

Commission to seek A.G. opinion on legality of proposed program

January 9, 2007, 6:00 p.m. Updated January 9, 2007, 8:17 p.m.

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The noise coming from City Hall tonight won't be wedding bells.

But city commissioners at their weekly meeting may make noise heard across the state as they consider becoming the first Kansas community to legally recognize gay partnerships.

City Hall reporter Chad Lawhorn will live-blog the discussion. The meeting starts at 6:35 p.m., and the domestic partnership discussion should start shortly after.

6:15 p.m. Hi. I'm Journal-World City Hall Reporter Chad Lawhorn. City commissioners are scheduled to start their meeting at 6:35 p.m. The discussion on a domestic partnership registry is slated as the second item on the regular agenda. Before we get started, I want to apologize for any misspellings or typos that occur as part of this blog. I will be describing the events of the meeting in real time, so this report does not have the benefit of being edited prior to being posted on the Web. We will attempt to correct any typos or misspellings after the meeting ends. Also, a brief explantion of what to expect is in order. We're calling this a blog, but really it is more of a description of what is happening at the meeting. I won't be offering my own comments or opinions as you might expect a blogger to do. You, of course, are welcome to do so. Check back soon. I expect the discussion to start shortly.

6:45 p.m. The meeting has started but commissioners are talking about other issues at the moment. As a reminder, there are only four commissioners tonight. Commissioner Sue Hack is absent from the meeting. There is a large crowd of people in the audience. The commission meeting room is full, and more than a dozen people are in the commission lobby.

7:10 p.m. City commissioners are set to begin their discussion on the registry. Toni Wheeler, interim director of legal services explains the research she has done on the subject. Wheeler said a new ordinance and resolution would change the defintion of family to include domestic partners. She said she looked at what other cities have done. There are no other cities in Kansas that has created a registry, but several other cities in Midwest have created one. She said issues the city commission needs to provide direction on are: what are the requirements people must meet to register; should it be open to both same sex and opposite sex couples; details on procedures for removal of names from the registry; what fees should be charged for the program. Wheeler said that there have been legal challenges in other states. Some have survived the legal challenge and some have not. She said it is difficult to know how Kansas courts may rule. "If it is drafted carefully, I believe it could withstand a challenge."

7:17 p.m. Mayor Mike Amyx asks if the city shoud seek an opinion from the Attorney General's office on whether the city has the legal authority to do this. Wheeler said that would be a good idea.

7:19 p.m. Commissioner Boog Highberger asks if this could be interpreted to be granting any benefits to domestic partners. Wheeler said there has been a case arguing that it does require benefits be offered to domestic partners. That argument was struck down in court though, Wheeler said. Highberger also asked whether Wheeler thought this would conflict with the Kansas Constitutional Ammendment prohibiting gay marriage. Wheeler said an argument could be made that it does, but thinks if the registry ordinance were carefully crafted, it could withstand legal challenge.

7:22 Commissioner David Schauner said he thought the largest benefit would be that domestic partners could use this registry to get health insurance benefits. But he said he thought most of those decisions about whether coverage would be offered to domestic partners might be in the hands of the insurance company. "I don't want to hold out any false hope here."

7:25 Commissioner Mike Rundle said he thought the registry would be useful to employers who offer benefits to domestic partners but often times require documentation that a partnership exists. Also reminds people that this is for non-gay couples as well. Mayor Mike Amyx tells crowd that he just wants to hear questions and comments tonight. Does not expect the City Commission to make a decision tonight.

7:27 Maggie Childs, chair of the local chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition. Childs said her group supports the registry concept. Wants it to be open for both gay and hetrosexual couples. "It is a good idea for a lot of people and we want it to be as open as possible." She said they are not asking for any benefits as part of this, at the moment. Thinks it would be a good to have documentation to show employers. "It is tough to ask for sick leave to take care of your partner for example, if you don't really have anything that shows you do have a patner," Childs said. Said this would also open the door to go to the hospital administration, for example, and ask the hospital to honor domestic partners as people who can visit people who are critically ill. "These type of protections are needed when bad things happen that you don't plan on. And there are other people for whom this would be a very meaningful event from a symbolic standpoint to go and register and have their partnership recognized."

7:35 Forrest Swall. Said there is broad support for this program in Lawrence. Said it woud show Lawrence's diversity and tolerance.

7:35 Kim Kreicker. Said she and her partners would use this registry. She said they would appreciate any benefits that would follow. As an example, she said she and her partner would like to be on each other's health insurance so one of them could perhaps quit work or work part-time so that they could help take care of their elderly parents.

7:37 Bill Simms. He said that he thinks the community needs this. Says some domestic partners feel uncomfortable in Lawrence today.

7:38 Bill N. Works as an attorney for AT&T. He is representing himself tonight, not the company. The company offers benefits to domestic partners but the company does require some documentation from a government or official jurisdiction. He said he would use the registry as a gay man. Said that he does not think the city would be vulnerable to losing a legal challenge.

7:40 Lori Messinger. Says that more than half of the Fortune 500 companies offer benefits to domestic partners. Many of them have retail locations in Lawrence. She has been in a domestic partnership for mor than 15 years. "It would be really nice to affirm our relationship."

7:45 p.m. Public comment ends. Amyx said he welcomes further written comment. Schauner asks if KU offers domestic partnership benefits. The answer is no. Comm. Highberger thanks Rundle for bringing the issue forward. "I'm generally supportive of the idea. I think it is an idea that doesn't hurt anyone." Said he was really proud of how Lawrence rejected the Kansas Constitutional Ammendment on gay marriage. Rundle said what he thinks the city should move forward is simply the registry. "We should not require employers to provide benefits." Says this is "simply an extension of that sense of welcome and anti-discrimination" that was created when the city made it illegal to discriminate on sexual orientation basis. Commissioner David Schauner said he thought this was a "logical follow-up" to that non-discrimination ordinance. Says he wants staff to use a model used in other communites. I very much would look forward to seeing something. Amyx said he wants an attorney general's opinion before he commits to anything. "I think we need to find out how broad of authority we have."

7:50 p.m. David Corliss, city manager. Said the staff can ask for an A.G. opinion. Said he also will ask the A.G.'s office for a timeline since the new A.G. is just taking office. Corliss said he will report the timeline he is told by the A.G. office. Motion made to contact attorney general's office to seek an attorney general's opinion. Motion also allows staff to create a draft ordinance to show to the A.G. office. Motion is approved 4-0.

Comments

MrMister 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't see how this could construed to allow domestic partners to recieve health benefits from employers. Those that offer benefits to their employees are not required to extend those benefits to spouses of married couples now. I could see companies offering health coverage to employees only and dropping "family" coverage or health benefits alltogether. That would just compound the problem.

daman 8 years, 2 months ago

this registry is the first step to our city forcing businesses to provide benefits to "civil unions". Once that happens there is no end in sight. "Civil union" will include heterosexual couples, i.e., boyfriend/girlfriend, roommates, etc... It will be abused beyond belief, but of course these boneheads (bood and rundle) have zero vision, they want what they want and don't give two squirts about the consequences. This is a prime example of why they need to go, as if you needed more reasons. Hey rundle and boog, do me a favor, get to work and solve some real issues facing our city.

budwhysir 8 years, 2 months ago

I just checked out the eagle cam, this thing doesnt work well in the dark

Weezy_Jefferson 8 years, 2 months ago

FYI, daman and others, the registry would not "force" anyone to do anything. It would simply give businesses the opportunity to recognize unmarried couples if they choose to do so. And any unmarried couple who wish to register would have to fill out an official document, pay a fee, etc., and be recognized as a couple. If "roommates" want to do that, why shouldn't they? What's is to you, hmm?

tinytim 8 years, 2 months ago

Marion:

There are not any serious problems identified by the legal director's report. Actually, she suggests that it would stand up to a court challenge related to the Kansas Constitutional Amendment, and that there are few other issues or problems that would arise.

The main issue is that they have to make some decisions about exactly the scope of the registry ordinance. That can be worked out fairly quickly, once they set to it.

I have read your comments on all of these stories and I would hope that you would get on board. I know you support LGBT folks, and this is a good first step. If we can get this registry, there can be better individual and group advocacy within Lawrence.

Jeff Barclay 8 years, 2 months ago

Where is the outcry of opposition? Surely there are those who disagree with this possibility. I urge readers to urge pastors and others to organize. What a shame if we would open this door. Gay or hetero couples, this is wrong.

Sigmund 8 years, 2 months ago

I think all domestics should be registered. It so hard to get good domestic help these days. The registry could list skills and styles. French Maid, light dusting but doesn't do windows.

Weezy_Jefferson 8 years, 2 months ago

Watch it, Barclay, you'll get splinters from holding that picket too tightly....

Honestly, the religious right needs to do us all a favor and butt out. This is not a religious matter. The state has already written Divine discrimination into the constitution, so all of you Bible thumpers don't need to get all fired up. Buy season tickets to Rev. Fox's Wild West World and let the rest of us progress in peace.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

if passed, could make lawrence a regional travel destination for homosexuals. is that, also what we want. our state did pass a constitutional amendment about this. does lawrence need to stick its little finger into the state's eye, yet again?

Sigmund 8 years, 2 months ago

The Lawrence Domestic Partner Registry is stupid, conveys no legal rights nor imposes any legal responsibility, and is obviously nothing more than a well timed bit of pandering to the gay/lesbian community by the PLC Kommissioners prior to the election.

It's primary benefit is said to be symbolic and would indicate, primarily to Lawrencian's, that the Lawrence is supportive of its gay residents! This in the largest city in the only county in Kansas that voted against a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

That said, can we expand this to heterosexual as well homosexual couples and charge a fee? $475 per couple to come on down and register in front of the clerk. We could make make registration mandatory and then charge $1,475 to get off the registry.

Yet another PLC proposal that is completely unnecessary and accomplishes absolutely nothing. If we are going to set up legally meaningless registries, lets at least make some money off of it!

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

by none2: " Better to have homosexuals than fundy xian bigots flock to town. " okay, tolerance NAZI, your antichristian prejudice is now really showing! I said nothing at all related to the Christian faith in my post, in the two concerns which I posted. so, you exemplify what is really wrong here, thanks. and, btw, calling me a biggot, that's so darned funny if you knew %5 of who I am.

Weezy_Jefferson 8 years, 2 months ago

HA! "Tolerance Nazi." What an oxymoron, kind of like "jumbo shrimp" and "religious right."

For all of you who think this registry is nothing but stupid fluff: I hate to have to be the one to point this out to you, but your ignorance is showing. Not so much biggotry or hatred---just plain-old, country-fresh ignorance. And it's not your fault. You probably don't know what it's like to be in a loving, monogomous. long-term relationship, or, if you do, you don't know what it's like to have lived with your "significant other" for 20 or 30 years but still be banned from seeing him or her in the hospital room because you're not recognized as a couple. Maybe you should go through that experience. Maybe that'll knock some compassion into your heads and prevent you from babbling ignorant nonsense.

Sigmund 8 years, 2 months ago

And after the LDPR, couples will not have a single additional right. It may not be stupid, but anyone who thinks this anything more than political pandering prior to the election surely is.

Weezy_Jefferson 8 years, 2 months ago

Dios mio, I have had it up to HERE with the pseudo-intelligence that runs rampant on these reader-reaction posts.

Bottom line, people: This is not about politics, religion, tolerance Nazis, biggots, flying spaghetti monsters, or whatever topic the regular reader-reaction posters whine about 24-7. This is for the many couples who wish their relationship was recognized in some meaningful way. That's it. If you are not a part of such a relationship, sit this one out and wait for the next topic.

miniflavors 8 years, 2 months ago

This is a great Idea. We already have this at my work for my partner and myself. We don't abuse the Insurance.
It is sad when people can't or don't want to understand.

And Weezy_Jefferson -- You are 100% right...

OK all you fred phelps followers.... if you have nothing better to say... go back to church.

And Barclay it will happen. As long as there is a Key to open the door it will open. Even if you have to get a locksmith...It will open.. :)

Godot 8 years, 2 months ago

The cost of this experiment is going to be huge. First the cost of the city attorney's time to "carefully draft" the ordinance, and then defend it against the legal challenges.

prioress 8 years, 2 months ago

KC Star Letter on 1/10/07 "After reading David Eland's observations (1/5, Letters, "Homosexual Behavior"), I am now convinced that scientists should abandon their search for the "gay gene." Society would be better served if scientific research is dedicated to isolating the "bigotry gene." R MCVay/Kansas City

Godot 8 years, 2 months ago

Prioress demonstrates why no one showed up to speak against the ordinance.

Godot 8 years, 2 months ago

The least the Kansas Equality Coalition should have done was to spend their own time and money to "carefully draft" an ordinance to present to the commission for consideration.

Blablawoofwoof 8 years, 2 months ago

I just want to add my partner to my health insurance plan. We're currently paying $450 per month for her insurance as she has a disabling condition that requires many prescriptions. My employer will offer these benefits within the next year but I will need to provide them documentation. Since it's a nationwide employer, they prefer a registry.

Seems to me the sex of the partners is irrelevant. There are many couples in committed relationships who should be able to share their lives and expenses without subsidizing the health insurance companies any more than we already do.

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago

The constitutional amendment "protecting" marriage is clearly unconstitutional to me.

All American citizens have the right to the "pursuit of happiness". To deny the "rights, etc." of marriage to a significant part of our population is a violation of their right to pursue happiness.

We should either allow all who wish to be married, remove state support/recognition of marriage, or extend the same support/recognition to other similar relationships.

And, for the record, if it matters to anyone, I am straight and married, but don't understand why that should entitle me to benefits denied gay couples.

Benefits include tax breaks, legal recognition as a "family" member, ability to adopt, etc.

Weezy_Jefferson 8 years, 2 months ago

"offtotheright," hon, you just don't get it, do you? I already know my relationship has meaning; in fact, I'm sure it has more meaning than most hetero relationships. As we sit back and watch hetero couples honor the "sanctity of marriage" by getting married at drive-thru chapels in Las Vegas, divorcing after 2 minutes, getting married again on a whim, and divorcing again, we find it downright ridiculous that gay couples who take their relationships more seriously are treated like nothing more than roommates. Wake up, offtotheright and other reader-reaction posters who spout streams of ignorance. Leave the flippant attitude with Bill O'Reilly and his falafel.

But I digress. This whole issue isn't about gay couples wanting everyone to know they're "here and queer." It's about trying to get some sort of equal treatment that's long overdue to them.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

what jesus taught...such as "go forth, and sin no more" for example. if you site Jesus, be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

classclown 8 years, 2 months ago

"The constitutional amendment "protecting" marriage is clearly unconstitutional to me."

=======================================

Do you realize what an oxymoron that statement is?

preebo 8 years, 2 months ago

I can tell you right now that Kansas will not allow Civil Unions or Same-Sex Marriage. It's sad that the Mid-West is still so far behind the rest of the nation, let alone the world. I mean, seriously, South Africa recently allowed Same-Sex Marriages, yes South Africa, the same nation that officially sponsored apartheid is now allow gays and lesbians to wed. Does that not sound just a little pathetic?

As a person who considers himself a Christian, but also an American (who accepts differences of others) I believe that if the states or the nation as a whole allow Same-Sex Unions that doesn't mean that our religious faith is hindered. Marriage is a two-bodied concept. There is the religious institution, which is the historical foundation of marriage, and then there is the governmental infrastructure. To have the state allow for same-sex couples to wed does not infringe upon the religious institution at all. Both bodies of marriage exist simultaniously but also exclusively. In effect, Churches do not have to allow these unions to take place if they deem it violates doctrine. This already exists with various sects of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.

...however much I have traveled off base my point is still the same. This will never happen here. America, at least the Mid-West, is not ready.

opinion 8 years, 2 months ago

Actually I think most other states (when put to a vote) consistently show a similar position as what you fear Kansans will do Preebo. Your attempt to smear Midwesterners, again, has little legs.

none2 - you are correct that "love thy neighbor" is important to Jesus. Question is, how is this love to be displayed? He does tell us in the rest of His teachings.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

None2, your antichristian biggotry is showing. it is apparent that the idea of non-sham christians is very upsetting so you make us all out to be sham.

to answer your last post: Jesus also said that he did not come to abolish the old testament, but to fulfill it. homosexuality is expressly condemned in the old testament. further, one cannot separate what Jesus taught from what Paul taught, as in Romans ch#1, 1 Corinthians #6. Jesus certainly did talk about sin, and spent more time talking about hell, judgment etc., than he did about grace and heaven. grace is important, and we also know that Jesus died to offer salvation to all, because we know we are all sinners.

budwhysir 8 years, 2 months ago

To be part of a domestic registry, I believe you must first be of some type of a domestic type, and also have the ability to register in an open registry type forum that my registered in a signed registered type set up. Furthermore, if one is of a registered nature, they would be considered registered.

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago

Class clown, that's funny :-)

But, over time, there have been a variety of amendments which were found to be in violation of the basic principles of our nation. The one I remember best is the one making 5 black people equivalent to 3 white ones.

I believe it was finally determined that that violated the principle that "All men are created equal".

When misguided politicians create legislation and amendments which are in violation of the basic principles of our founding fathers, then we must look back to those.

The phrase "endowed ... with the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is another important one. To reward heterosexual couples for their unions with legal benefits and deny those to homosexuals clearly interferes with the latters' pursuit of happiness.

We should either abolish all secular benefits of coupling, or provide them to all who wish to couple. Anything else is clearly discriminatory.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

none2, try 2 Peter 3:16, along with many other references. to seperate Jesus' words from those of the others writing "as God moved them" is an artificial distinction. for you, it is a helpful rationale to set aside Paul and his words, but you cannot, the Bible itself says not to. also, try reading the very last two verses in the Bible, written by John.

further, Jesus most certainly did speak more on hell and judgment, because He was warning people to escape it through his work on earth. finally, again, Jesus said "Go forth, and sin no more." he recognized that according to the old testament, sin had happened.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

erratum: should read "last four verses" not "two."

deec 8 years, 2 months ago

It sounds as if some posters believe both the laws of the Old and New Testaments apply. So we can assume these posters do not eat pork or shellfish, do not wear clothing made of more than one fiber, shun menstruating women, perform animal sacrifices, treat their slaves well, believe women should be silent in church, believe women should unquestioningly obey their husbands, plan to marry their brother's widow, believe in beating their wives and children, etc.

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