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Old 01-22-2009, 09:24 AM
Location: Center City Philadelphia
1,099 posts, read 4,413,822 times
Reputation: 447


City plans life partners registry
Unmarried couples may document status
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Of The Patriot-News

Harrisburg Councilman Dan Miller isn't afraid to say that he is among those who stand to benefit from the city's Life Partnership Registry he helped establish.

Miller, who is gay, said he and partner Carl Bechdel hope to be among the first to visit the city clerk's office and sign up for the registry when it becomes available to the public on Friday.

"We've been together for 19 years. We have two kids, one graduated from college and another is in college now," said Miller, who last summer introduced legislation to create the registry that the city council passed by unanimous vote in December. "It's very disheartening for us not to be able to garner the benefits of civil marriage like our brothers and sisters. ... We can at least do this."

Unmarried couples -- straight or gay -- who live or work in the city, by paying a $25 fee, can sign up in the registry and prove their status to qualify for benefits that employers in Harrisburg extend to unmarried couples.

The legislation doesn't give the city power to mandate that employers in Harrisburg provide benefits. But it does give force of law to the city's existing policy providing benefits to unmarried couples.

It also requires all hospitals and health care facilities in the city extend the same visitation privileges to those in an unmarried relationship as are granted to married spouses or parents.

Miller said that about 15 years ago he was blocked from visiting his daughter in a hospital in the city because he couldn't prove he was her parent. The hospital allowed Bechdel to see the girl because he is her biological father.

About five years ago, when both the couple's children were in a nearby hospital -- not in the city -- after an auto accident, Miller lied and said he was the father, to avoid a repeat of what happened before.

But there might be concerns, especially in the gay community, that the public nature of the registry could invite abuse. The Patriot-News heard from one couple concerned that people who sign up in the registry might have their identity passed on -- without their permission -- to employers or others who are intolerant of gays. The couple requested anonymity and declined to be interviewed.

But Miller said the registry must be open to the public in the same way that anyone can inspect other public documents such as wills, mortgages and marriage licenses.

"It has to be public information because if it's not, how will a hospital know" to grant an unmarried partner visitation, Miller said.

He said the city has laws that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The potential abuse argues for further protection through state and federal laws, Miller said.

Russell Bogg, president of the Central Pennsylvania Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, said the registry is good for the area because it's good for business.

"A lot of people talk about diversity, but really as far as municipalities are concerned it's what they do in legislation that really counts," Boggs said, noting Harrisburg is the third city in the state with such a registry after Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

"This sends the signal that the Harrisburg community is open for business, so to speak, to persons who want to move here to get work that want a diversified work force," Boggs said.

Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute in Harrisburg, declined comment Wednesday about the registry. The institute had criticized the legislation when it was proposed as unnecessary and as being a stepping stone to full recognition of same-sex marriage, which the group opposes.

DAN MILLER: 255-8440 or danmiller@patriot-news.com
City plans life partners registry - PennLive.com
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Old 01-22-2009, 09:27 AM
Location: Center City Philadelphia
1,099 posts, read 4,413,822 times
Reputation: 447
This is a great step forward for Harrisburg and Central Pennsylvania. For those who dismiss the south central part of the state as nothing but conservatives, you'd be enlightened to know Harrisburg is one of the most liberal and gay-friendly cities in the country. Harrisburg (back nearly 30 years ago) was in fact the first city in the state to enact law protecting gays from being fired just for being gay. Now let's see other cities in PA step up to the plate with this and other legislation!
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Old 01-22-2009, 01:02 PM
Status: "Hi Yac!" (set 8 days ago)
Location: Marshall-Shadeland, Pittsburgh, PA
31,796 posts, read 73,257,763 times
Reputation: 17780
Let's hope Scranton follows suit.
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Old 01-22-2009, 02:21 PM
Location: Harrisburg, PA
160 posts, read 604,898 times
Reputation: 78
This a good thing, but it's just a bandaid measure. I mean, what about social security benefits, for example? Something has to be done in every state that is the same as marriage in terms of collecting federal benefits.

While I applaud the city of Harrisburg (and Philly and Pittsburg, too) for doing the right thing as far as what is in their power, it's a troubling development. It's a kind of ghetto arrangement, which builds walls if it persists over decades instead of breaking them down.
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Old 01-22-2009, 05:24 PM
Location: Silver Spring, MD/Washington DC
3,520 posts, read 8,776,736 times
Reputation: 2443
I wonder if Mayor Reid will sign up (if he has a life partner that is).
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