Berkeley City Council to consider eliminating domestic partnership registry

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Berkeley residents celebrate on the steps of City Hall after the Supreme Court effectively invalidated DOMA and Proposition 8.

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In light of the Supreme Court’s decision allowing same-sex marriage in California, Berkeley City Council will consider closing the city’s Domestic Partnership Registry at its Oct. 1 meeting.

Darryl Moore, the council member proposing the closure, said the city’s registry is no longer needed because the services it offers can be provided through other avenues, such as going to the Office of the County Clerk in Oakland or mailing the registration to the secretary of state’s office in Sacramento.

The proposal comes in response to the Supreme Court’s June decision in Hollingsworth v. Perry, in which the court ruled 5-4 to effectively nullify Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot initiative that added language to the state constitution defining marriage as valid only between a man and a woman.

In 1984, Berkeley City Council was the first city council to grant domestic partnership benefits to its employees. The city in 1991 established the Domestic Partnership Registry, which allowed the city to recognize domestic partnerships.

More than 1,000 domestic partners are registered in Berkeley, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington. The last time a couple registered for a domestic partnership was Monday, according to the city clerk.

Before submitting the proposal, Moore said he sent it to local leaders, including the Pacific Center for Human Growth, an LGBT community organization, for review.

Worthington and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, however, believe the community and affected couples should be further consulted before a decision is made.

“Whether they are heterosexual couples or same-sex couples, they may choose domestic partnerships over marriage,” Arreguin said. “We should continue to give them that option.”

According to the city clerk’s office, about 40 to 50 couples have registered for domestic partnerships for each of the past three years. Additionally, about 10 domestic partners per year chose to terminate their licenses.

“If people are using it and people want it, I don’t see why we would go out of our way to close it,” said Caitlin Quinn, an ASUC senator endorsed by groups in the campus queer community.

Other community members see a potential need to terminate Berkeley’s domestic registry. City policy on domestic partnerships does not require other employers, businesses or government agencies to recognize Berkeley’s domestic partnerships, according to the city’s website.

“(Closing the registry) could eliminate potential conflict between the city’s registry and the state of California’s marriage laws for same-sex couples,” said Ed Ness, co-chair of the Oakland/East Bay chapter of Parents, Families, & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

The council will also consider establishing Oct. 11, the registry’s 22nd anniversary, as Marriage Equality Day in Berkeley as part of the proposal.

Contact Gladys Rosario and Michelaina Johnson at [email protected]