SALT LAKE CITY – Mayor Rocky Anderson wants to let domestic partners in Salt Lake City document their relationships, saying a registry would allow people to signify “they are partners, that they formed a domestic partnership.”
But whether he can legally do that in Utah is up for debate.
Some critics say such a move would run afoul of a state law approved by the largely conservative Utah electorate last year. The city’s attorney is still researching the law’s implications and whether it would block Anderson’s plan.
The ballot initiative approved by voters last year changed the state constitution to say “no other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equivalent legal effect.”
Republican State Rep. LaVar Christensen, who backed the initiative, said he was willing to sponsor legislation to stop the city if the current law isn’t clear.
Anderson’s “attempt to circumvent existing law is tantamount to the San Francisco mayor standing on the steps (of City Hall) and performing (gay) marriages,” Christensen said.
Anderson is also considering extending health benefits to partners of gay employees, something proponents say the city is prevented from doing.
Sen. Scott McCoy, a Democrat from Salt Lake City and one of two openly gay state lawmakers, said the new law shouldn’t prevent a registry or domestic partner health benefits because it was specific to marriages and civil unions.
Utah’s gay community sees the registry as important regardless.
“The registry’s a wonderful tool that can be used by a municipality or a city or state to allow nontraditional partners to validate their relationships,” said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Utah. “Any step toward recognizing nontraditional families and partnerships is a step in the right direction.”