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Duluth councilor wants city to create domestic partner registry

DULUTH - Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson will introduce an ordinance in three weeks that would allow domestic partners to be registered at City Hall.

Anderson said the couples would get domestic partner certificates that would be largely symbolic, but would help couples more easily receive domestic partner benefits from companies that offer them.

"How are companies supposed to know you're a domestic partner?" said Anderson, who is the city's first openly gay councilor. "This is a municipal entity recognizing it as such, which then makes it easier for those benefits to be administered by their employer, if offered."

Anderson said he will propose a companion resolution that would charge $20 to $25 for a domestic partner certificate. The fee would pay for administering the program through the city's human rights office.

Among the criteria to be registered as domestic partners, couples have to attest they are "jointly responsible to each other for the necessities of life" and "are as committed to one another as married persons are traditionally committed," according to a draft of the ordinance.

Anderson said couples do not necessarily have to be of the same sex.

He said the ordinance is nearly identical to one Minneapolis has had since 1991, adding that 70 cities across the country have adopted similar language. According to the Human Rights Campaign, about 51 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits to employees.

Anderson said he expects his proposal to generate controversy.

"This does not create special rights for same-sex couples," Anderson said. "The proposed registry places no requirement on any business, or on the city itself, to offer domestic partnership benefits."

He also noted that by state law the city of Duluth cannot offer same-sex benefits.