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Topeka Mayor Opposes Domestic Partner Registry

TOPEKA, Kan. – Topeka’s mayor said creating a domestic partner registry for the city would be “the wrong road to go down,” because he believes it would be another step toward legalizing gay marriage.

Mayor Bill Bunten made his comments Tuesday during the Topeka City Council’s first reading of a proposal to establish the registry, which would allow unmarried adult couples to register their relationships with the city to gain easier access to benefits such as health insurance and hospital visitation rights, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“I’m afraid I’m too old for this,” Bunten said. “What I see happening all throughout this city and across this country is a minimizing of the need for a man and a woman to have a family. You don’t have to do that anymore. It’s accepted, and I think that’s the wrong road to go down.”

The registry would give couples documented proof of their relationship, which is required by some private businesses that extend benefits to their employees’ domestic partners, said councilman Andrew Gray, who is sponsoring the proposal. Companies would not be required to offer benefits to domestic partners and the registry would not grant the rights or benefits of marriage to the couples, he said.

And it isn’t intended to destroy or minimize traditional marriages, Gray said.

The registry will benefit more heterosexual couples than it will lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples, said Jason Chaika, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition’s political action committee.

It defines a domestic partnership as a relationship between two unrelated, unmarried, cohabitating people, regardless of gender, who are in an interdependent relationship.

“This is not about gay marriage or eroding marriage in any way,” he said. “This is about offering benefits. This is about facilitating businesses to move to this city.”

But Bunten said he thinks the registry would give positive recognition to same-sex couples. He also said he doesn’t understand why the registry would make a difference.

Gray said the registry will at least make a symbolic difference.

“There is a lot of power behind symbolic moves,” he said. “In this case, it could show that Topeka is both an open and tolerant society for those who aren’t considered the majority.”

He said it could help bring in businesses, which are interested in a diverse work force, and motivate other businesses to extend health benefits to employees’ domestic partners, he said.

The city council is scheduled to vote on the registry during its Nov. 29 meeting.

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