Kansas city considers gay partnership registry
LAWRENCE, Kansas -- City officials are considering creating a city-maintained registry that would legally recognize gay partnerships.
Supporters said the registry would not automatically give gay and lesbian couples the legal rights afforded to married couples, but the registry would serve as a legal recognition of the couple’s relationship.
"It would indicate that the city is welcoming and supportive of its gay community members," said Maggie Childs, who heads the Lawrence chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, which asked Lawrence Commissioner Mike Rundle to set up the registry.
"In my mind, the primary benefit is symbolic."
Kansas voters approved a state constitutional amendment almost two years ago that banned gay marriage in the state.
About 75 other local governments across the country have adopted similar registries, according to the City and County of San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Lawrence would be the first to do so in Kansas, joining such Midwestern cities as Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis and Iowa City, Iowa.
City commissioners haven’t yet scheduled a hearing on the registry.
The last time the Lawrence commission dealt with protecting homosexuals from discrimination was in 1995, when commissioners passed an ordinance prohibiting housing or employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Rev. Leo Barbee of Lawrence’s Victory Bible Church noted that Douglas County was the only county where the Kansas constitutional amendment banning gay marriage failed, so he wasn’t surprised a registry was being considered. But Barbee, who campaigned against the 1995 anti-discrimination ordinance, said the registry was wrong.
"I think God set up a standard that marriage is one man and one woman," he said. "Anytime we go against that, I think we are going against what God said in his word. I know that will cause some confusion or cause some people to say I’m homophobic.
"I’m not against gays or lesbians as people, but I just feel it is not the right thing to do."
Childs said people like Barbee are welcome to their opinions on the religious issues of homosexuality, "but as long as we’re in this country, that shouldn’t be the role of government."
Rundle, who is gay, said he is pushing the issue because although private employers are increasingly offering health benefits to domestic partners, proving a domestic partnership can be difficult and time-consuming, especially for people who frequently change jobs.
By registering their partnership, the couple would receive a certificate similar to a marriage license.
The city would not require businesses and private organizations to offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, but supporters said they hope a registry eventually persuades the city and other government agencies to start offering benefits to domestic partners.
Childs also said she hopes a registry would provide a toehold in eventually overturning the state ban on gay marriage, saying gay couples should have the same rights as married people when it comes to child custody, insurance or making medical decisions for a partner.
City Manager David Corliss said the city’s attorneys were still researching whether a domestic partnership registry would stand up in court.