Topeka Topeka city officials have voted against establishing a domestic partnership registry after the mayor said the change would push Kansas' capital city closer to legalizing gay marriage.
The registry, which failed on a 5-4 vote Tuesday, would have allowed unmarried adult couples to register their relationships with the city to gain easier access to benefits such as health insurance and hospital visitation rights.
Mayor Bill Bunten isn't a voting member of the council, but he spoke against the proposal. Earlier this month, he said he believes permitting civil unions and gay marriage amounts to "a minimizing of the need for a man and a woman to have a family."
The Topeka Capital Journal reported that Bunten disputed that the registry would change anything or confer rights on anyone.
"The bottom line is, it doesn't do a thing," he said.
Ten speakers spoke in favor of the registry, calling it a step toward ending inequality for some residents.
Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray said it was time for the city to address the issue "progressively, passionately and in a manner that will hopefully begin to remove the image of hate that this city unfortunately represents as a result of a very loud, mean-spirited minority."
Resident Marsall Barber told the council that voting against the registry would be standing in the way of spiritual, political and social progress, even though he said he believes marriage should be only between a man and woman.
Council members Denise Everhart and Richard Harmon disagreed with the proposal, saying that the issue was best left to the state or federal government to resolve.
"I listened to my constituents, and they asked me to vote 'no,'" Everhart said.
The registries generally allow unmarried adult couples, regardless of gender, to fill out forms with city government acknowledging their commitment. The partners can then use the forms to get access to health care, hospital visitation rights and other benefits enjoyed by married couples.
A similar registry was established in Lawrence in 2007, two years after Kansas amended its constitution to declare that only marriage between one man and one woman would be recognized. Kansas also prohibits granting rights or incidents of marriage to any other union or relationship.
Councilmember Andrew Gray sponsored the proposal, which sought to allow domestic partners to register their relationship with the city, "which will validate nontraditional relationships."
The proposal defined a domestic partnership as a "relationship of mutual interdependence."
The Topeka chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition was one of the main groups behind the registry in Topeka and claimed it would help attract and retain employees and extend equality to the couples.
Topeka employers that already offer health benefits to domestic partners include Dillons, AT&T, Cargill, Payless ShoeSource, Bank of America and Mars Inc.