Berkeley City Council dismisses proposal to close city’s domestic partnership registry

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Berkeley City Council will no longer consider closing the city’s Domestic Partnership Registry after adopting a revised version of the proposal at its Oct. 1 meeting.

The revised proposal, submitted by Councilmember Darryl Moore after public backlash against his original recommendation, dropped the motion to close the registry and instead suggested celebrating the registry’s 22-year anniversary by declaring Oct. 11 Marriage Equality Day.

The City Council established the Berkeley Domestic Partnership Registry in 1991 as a means of helping same-sex couples and opposite-sex unmarried couples obtain the same benefits as married couples.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington praised the adoption of the revised proposal, calling the original “one of the most grotesque, offensive and discriminating policies I have seen.”

The initial recommendation aimed to close the registry as a celebration of same-sex marriage becoming legal earlier this year. Moore, who drafted the proposal, wrote that the registry “only functions as a matter of ceremony” because same-sex marriages are recognized by the state.

But Worthington argued that the registry remains a necessity because both homosexual and heterosexual couples still use it if they choose not to marry. According to Worthington, California law allows homosexual couples to enter a domestic partnership at any legal age but forbids it for opposite-sex couples unless one partner is older than 62.

“If you’re gay, you can be a domestic partner at any age, but if you’re straight, you have to be over 62?” Worthington said. “This is not marriage equality.”

Worthington said the proposal to close the registry, which allows both heterosexual and homosexual couples to obtain a domestic partnership regardless of age, “offended me deeply.”

“In our celebration of a victory for the rights of the gay community, we can’t take away the rights of the straight community,” Worthington said

Other citizens and council members pointed to the popular use of the registry as a reason it should stay open. More than 1,000 couples have used the registry since its creation, including 15 after the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin.

“The registry is not just symbolic,” Arreguin said. “It’s important because it provides couples a variety of legal rights and protections, including medical insurance coverage and protection from eviction.”

Berkeley resident Steve Freedkin and his domestic partner are not a same-sex couple but rely on the legal benefits of the registry. Unwilling to get married while “friends in other states can’t,” Freedkin said the registry prevented his landlord from evicting his partner, a protection that would disappear if the registry were closed.

While Freedkin said he believed the proposal was motivated by good intentions, he said Moore didn’t seem “to have all the information” when proposing it.

To commemorate Marriage Equality Day, Moore and Worthington plan to officiate marriages at Old City Hall between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“We’re going to have the party,” Worthington said. “We’re going to have the party without taking away anyone’s rights.”

Contact Savannah Luschei at [email protected].