Proposal for partnership registry fails in Brooklyn Park

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA
  • Star Tribune
  • June 30, 2012 - 9:50 PM

Members of Brooklyn Park's Human Rights Commission are planning their next move after the City Council rejected a proposal to adopt a domestic partnership registry in the city.

Last week's 3-3 vote was not adequate to pass the measure, which would have required a majority. The council is short one member since Jeanette Meyer's death in May.

If the ordinance had passed, unmarried couples -- gay or straight -- could register for official certification of a committed relationship. That certification could be used in the application process for domestic partner health insurance, life insurance and other benefits, and for visitation authority if one or the other was hospitalized.

On June 22, Northfield became the 19th Minnesota city to establish a registry, said Phil Duran, legal director for OutFront Minnesota. North metro cities Crystal and Robbinsdale also have done so. In recent years, Inver Grove Heights and Moorhead have opted not to adopt a registry.

Commission members said the proposed ordinance was not linked to the amendment on the November ballot that would limit marriage to a man and a woman. But the proposed amendment and the role of the state of Minnesota in certifying relationships came up often in discussion of the proposal. Commission members said the measure was the next logical step for a city that prides itself on diversity and inclusion.

"We didn't expect it to be controversial, but the council made it too controversial," said Commission Chairman Hassanen Mohamed.

Mayor Jeff Lunde, who voted against adopting the ordinance, had signaled some support when the idea was introduced early last month, taking note of the diversity of people who may be committed to each other but might not be in a position to marry for a variety of reasons.

By last Monday, and in conversations after the vote, Lunde said that he feared that discussion of a registry with the timing of the marriage amendment would divide the city. He also said he had concluded that such a registry simply was not within the purview of city government.

"I sincerely believe the state needs to step it up," he said.

Commission member Evelyn Staus, who introduced the measure, wasn't convinced.

A state registry "is a nice idea, but it's not being done anywhere," she said.

She and others said they believe the vote was influenced by political concerns in the runup to a citywide election.

"I know people in Brooklyn Park who are very supportive of the registry," Staus said. "There were people who said, 'So what? I don't care what you do,' but the people who come out and say something or call the mayor and council members and say if you vote for the registry I'm not going to vote for you, there's a small number of them and they are very vocal and they apparently terrify politicians."

Council Member Peter Crema was not available for an interview Friday, but he referred to his comments at the June 4 council meeting. At that time, he agreed with Lunde that this didn't seem to be an issue for the city to take on.

"It seems to be not a lot of benefit for the individuals that apply," he said. "It's a validation of their relationship, but it's not the government recognition of it. The validation comes from the existence of the relationship, not from a piece of paper."

It was a personal issue to Council Member Elizabeth Knight, who was raised by two mothers.

"It's just another message to me that my family's just not good enough," she said.

"You have to use the word 'homophobic' sparingly, but to couch it in all these other issues to me is insincere."

Lunde bristled at the idea that a no vote would reflect negatively on the city.

"I absolutely reject the idea that somehow this city was not welcoming, and tomorrow if we were to pass this that we will be welcoming," he said at the meeting.

There was talk of reintroducing the measure after the Aug. 14 special election for Meyer's seat restores the council to seven members, but Mohamed said he's more inclined to wait until after the general election, after the marriage amendment is rejected or approved.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409

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