COLUMBIA — The first reading of a proposal providing Columbia with a domestic registry is on the City Council agenda for Monday’s meeting. If passed, the registry would give domestic couples a legal way to prove their relationship to employers and hospitals in Columbia.
A proposed ordinance drafted for the council would define domestic partners as “two adults who share the same principal residence, and are jointly responsible for the basic necessities of life. The individuals need not contribute equally to the cost of these necessities, as long as they agree that both are responsible for the cost."
Here is a list of the criteria a proposed city ordinance would use to determine eligibility for domestic partnerships:
- Couple has lived together for at least six months
- Each partner intends to live with the other and share the common necessities of life
- Each partner is 18 or older
- Each partner is mentally competent to enter a contract
- Partners cannot be related by blood closer than would bar marriage in Missouri
- Partners cannot be married to any person other than their domestic partner
- Partners are each other's sole domestic partner
The proposal also gives expressed rights to domestic partners that include use of and access to city facilities, employee benefit plans and health care visitation.
The registry would not require employers to provide benefits but would allow registered domestic partners to use the registry as proof of a relationship for their employee benefit plans.
Columbia residents have shown little opposition to the proposal, though some have worried that partners listed on the registry could become targets for retribution. A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, is confident residents will be accepting of the registry. PROMO is a statewide advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“There is no mechanism where the names are published, and there is no history of harassment for same-sex couples who publish ceremonies in the paper,” Bockelman said. The registry, which would be kept by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, would be a public record.
Bockelman also said Kansas City and St. Louis have experienced no problems with harassment of domestic couples on their registries.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe thinks the registry will be generally accepted.
“It will apply to heterosexual couples as well, who for various reasons can't or choose not to (be) legally married," Hoppe said in an e-mail. "The city of Columbia provides medical benefits for partners of our employees. There hasn't been any problems that I know of. Columbia is a diverse and accepting community."
An introduction and first reading will take place at the council meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Monday. The public hearing during which residents could comment on the proposal is scheduled for April 6.
Columbia’s LGBT community is getting organized for the hearing. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Resource Center is showing the documentary “Freeheld” at 7 p.m. March 31 at MU's Keller Auditorium. The film follows one woman's "struggle to transfer her earned pension to her domestic partner," according to the movie's Web site. A phone drive is also planned for April 5 to rally support for the ordinance.