Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kavanaugh Discusses Domestic Partner Registry

As we mentioned last week, we gave Councilmember Dennis Kavanaugh an opportunity to share his thoughts on the Domestic Partner Registry. We very much appreciate that he took his time to share his thoughts:


Last month the Arizona Republic ran several articles on a proposal before the Phoenix City Council to establish a “domestic partner registry” for use by unmarried couples, whether straight or gay, in the city. I was not familiar with this concept and asked our City Attorney to contact Phoenix to obtain a copy of their proposal as well as any background material.

I learned that as of the current time, at least 76 cities or counties in the United States had established such registries. The primary purpose of the registry is to ensure partner visitation rights in all health care facilities within the jurisdiction. The ordinances do not limit the right of health care facilities to establish visiting hours, rules of conduct or to regulate access to patients generally. They do not conflict or contravene other county, state or federal laws. They do not establish a gay marriage or civil union legal relationship. The registration issued by the city could be used to demonstrate a domestic partnership to government agencies, employers, businesses or other third parties. As an example, many employers offer domestic partner benefits and the registry is a way to qualify for such benefits.

I also learned that Tucson unanimously adopted a similar ordinance in 2003 and that Salt Lake City unanimously adopted a registry ordinance in January 2008. In the 2006 census, nearly 134,000 unmarried partner households were reported in the State of Arizona.

Medical powers of attorney or advance directives, while important for all individuals to consider having, do not guarantee visitation rights to domestic partners who are not family members. Phoenix worked with the health care community to develop the language in their ordinance.

I have asked our Human Relations Advisory Board to study the concept and the new Phoenix ordinance to see if they might recommend its adoption in our community. Depending on the actions of this board, our City Council may take up the issue later in the year.

If enacted, the program would be administered through our City Clerk’s office and there would be a fee for using the registry to offset the costs to the city. I am unaware of any administrative burdens or problems in any other community that has adopted such ordinances over the past ten years.

I do believe the registry is an equitable way to ensure visitation rights for unmarried couples. It also is helpful for the medical community by minimizing the risk of conflicts over who has access to patients in their facilities.

Dennis Kavanaugh, Councilmember, District 3, City of Mesa

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