Life partnership registry bill introduced in Harrisburg

EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 22, 2008

Openly gay Harrisburg City Council Councilmember Dan Miller proposed a bill on Tuesday, July 15, that would create a "life-partnership registry" for same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples in the city. City Council Vice President Dan Miller, along with Equality Advocates Pennsylvania and Harrisburg Attorney Benjamin C. Dunlap, Jr., worked together to draft the proposed ordinance.

The city of Harrisburg with Mayor Stephen R. Reed at the helm (the longest-tenured mayor in Pennsylvania) already offers benefits to unmarried employees who are in the same-sex or opposite-sex relationships. The registry, therefore, would provide an official city record of domestic-partner relationships that private businesses could refer to. Similar to the requirements for obtaining domestic-partnership benefits, registrants would need to be at least 18, residents of Harrisburg, have a common address, be unmarried and provide three of five enumerated means of shared financial obligations, such as sharing a mortgage, bank account or being designated as a beneficiary on their partners' life insurance policy. The registration fee would be $25.

The registry is based on measures already in place in Philadelphia, Washington, Salt Lake City and the one Pittsburgh passed just last month. In addition to streamlining the overly complex process for obtaining healthcare benefits, the proposal calls for all healthcare facilities in Harrisburg to provide registrants with the same visitation rights that married couples have and for all businesses that offer bereavement leave to extend that right to registered couples.

"These couples pay their taxes, maintain their homes and are integral to our city. They should have the same rights other citizens have."

The biggest excuse (or reason) private companies give for not offering domestic-partnership benefits is the associated burdensome costs. The registry will be extremely cost-effective for businesses that offer
them because there would be just one policy for everyone to follow instead of employers having to create, institute and maintain their own policies. Moreover, employees would submit their information and register just once, which negates the time and cost of verifying employees' information.

Miller said it best.

"[T]his is another step in that long road towards equality. Gay and lesbian couples, and also unmarried people-not just those in same-sex relationships-are a reality of our city," he said. "These couples pay their taxes, maintain their homes and are integral to our city. They should have the same rights other citizens have."

The City Council is in recess until the end of August so a vote is expected on the life-partnership registry in early fall. There is a lot of support for the bill and unanimous approval is expected.


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