Domestic registry gets nod from AG

New commission will consider issue

The Kansas Constitution is not standing in the way of Lawrence becoming the first city in the state to create a domestic partnership registry that would provide some legal recognition to gay couples.

Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison released a legal opinion Friday that said a domestic partnership registry would not violate a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.

“We’re now eager for the city to create a registry,” said Maggie Childs, president of the Lawrence chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, which has lobbied for the registry. “We think it is only fair, and we think it is a small thing we’re asking for.”

The legal opinion, which doesn’t have the power of a court ruling, states Lawrence should not create a registry that allows people from outside the city limits to register. Morrison wrote that the city could be found to be overstepping its constitutional authority if it did so.

The registry would allow unmarried couples – both same-sex and heterosexual – to register their domestic partnerships with City Hall.

Childs said registry’s main benefit likely would be making it easier for domestic partners to qualify for health insurance benefits. There are companies that offer health insurance to the domestic partners of employees, but the partner normally must provide some form of documentation. Listing on the registry could be used as that documentation. The registry, however, would not require any business to offer benefits to domestic partners.

Now, the question becomes whether city commissioners are interested in creating the registry. Commissioner Sue Hack, who is expected to begin a one-year term as mayor Tuesday, said she hopes to have the issue on a City Commission agenda within 60 days.

But she stopped short of saying she was ready to create the registry.

“Because we were waiting for the attorney general’s opinion, I haven’t spent as much time studying it as I should,” Hack said. “It hasn’t been at the top of my list of issues to study, but it is moving up on the list now.”

A majority of commissioners in January expressed support for the registry but said they first wanted to receive an attorney general’s opinion on it.

The attorney general’s opinion, however, did not come before the recent city elections. That means a new set of commissioners will consider it. New commissioners Rob Chestnut and Mike Dever – who will take office Tuesday – were noncommittal on the subject during the campaign.

Childs said she’s optimistic the registry will be created in Lawrence, and she’s willing to wait 60 days to give commissioners the time to get their questions answered.

“I think if the new city commissioners want to represent all of the city of Lawrence, they will pass this,” Childs said. “I can understand that there are people who have some religious beliefs that might have concerns about this, but those shouldn’t be used to mold public policy.”

State legislators had been considering a law that would prohibit cities from creating a domestic partnership registry. But that legislation has not won approval, and legislative leaders recently said the issue probably is dead until next year’s legislative session.