Harrisburg City Council passes partnership registry

EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Dec 31, 2008

The Harrisburg City Council unanimously approved a bill on Dec. 22 that would create a registry for unmarried, committed couples.

Openly gay City Council Vice President Dan Miller initially proposed the registry in July. Equality Advocates Pennsylvania and Harrisburg attorney Benjamin C. Dunlap, Jr., collaborated to draft the ordinance. And the council unanimously approved it by a vote of seven to zero.

The city of Harrisburg already offers benefits to unmarried employees who are in the same-sex or heterosexual relationships. The registry would provide an official city record of domestic-partner relationships to which private businesses could refer.

Registry requirements are similar to those for obtaining domestic partner benefits. Registrants 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. These can include sharing a mortgage, bank account or being designated as a beneficiary on their partners' life insurance policy. The registration fee would be $25.

The most common reason private companies give for not offering domestic-partnership benefits is the associated costs. The registry is ironically cost-effective for businesses that offer domestic partnerships because instead of employers creating, instituting and maintaining their own policies, there would be just one uniform policy for all businesses to follow. Moreover the employer no longer needs to spend time and money to verify their employee's information once he or she submits their information to register him or her.

The registry is based on measures already in place in Philadelphia, Washington, Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. 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. Polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research in Nov. 2007 found 91 percent of respondents supported hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.

"I am proud that the Harrisburg City Council unanimously passed the Life Partner Registry Bill last night," Miller stated. "It is a positive step toward equality for all residents. I hope this new law expanding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the state capital will inspire state legislators to take similar action."


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