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Harrisburg City Council Passes Domestic Registry; Now What?

Harrisburgians may soon be on their way to another notch in the belt of pointless LGBT legislative efforts.

You might recall that Pittsburgh passed similar legislation, signed amidst much fanfare when Luke Ravenstahl came to PrideFest.  Fast forward six months.  Exactly six couples have registered.  There has been no promotion of this resource, either to City employees (60 registered domestic partners in Personnel) or the general public.  There has been no publicized effort to increase the number of employers offering domestic partner benefits.

With all due respect to Jake Kaskey, this legislation hasn't done one single “concrete” thing for Pittsburgh except reinforce the misperception that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl supports gay rights.  I have been informed that this is what actually propelled Allegheny County Councilwoman Amanda Greene to go underground with the gay advocates and come up with the anti-discrimination legislation on the County level.  Certainly, that's a win for County residents.  But what about us here in Pittsburgh who are going to be saddled once again with a Mayor who publicly opposes civil unions, but is willing to allow people to think otherwise so he can court the “pink” voters and donors?  Too bad for us?  Screw us? 

I am poking around for information on how this registry is working in Philadelphia.  Perhaps there is something to be learned from how this rolled out in the Liberty City and I would be ecstatic if this could be salvaged to make a meaningful difference, especially for low and moderate income families who can really utilize the benefits.  And maybe the folks in H-burg have an actual implementation plan to make this a useful resource.

But I'm not exactly “consoled” by the fact that the County Council stepped on my back to achieve equality for gay people.  No one asked me to make that tradeoff and I'd like a recount if they did.  Especially since Amanda Greene is my County Councilwoman and I haven't seen her in Manchester at all (but she's in good company in that regard).  You can bet I'll be contacting her for more discussion on that tradeoff.

HARRISBURG- Last night the Harrisburg City Council voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance to create a Life Partnership Registry, allowing unmarried, committed couples to affirm and recognize their relationships with the city. By a vote of 7 to 0, the Harrisburg City Council has taken an important step to streamline the process for domestic partners to obtain healthcare and other benefits afforded to married couples “This vote shows that people all across Pennsylvania are committed to treating same-sex couples with the same respect and dignity as other married couples,” said Jake Kaskey, policy and outreach coordinator with Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy organization.  “This type of legislation has strong support across Pennsylvania, and will concretely help countless unmarried couples obtain benefits afforded to married couples.”  Kaskey noted that polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research in November 2007 found that 91% of people polled supported hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples.Equality Advocates Pennsylvania worked with Councilman Miller and Harrisburg Attorney Benjamin C. Dunlap, Jr. to draft the ordinance.Councilman Dan Miller, who introduced this legislation, remarked, “I am proud that the Harrisburg City Council unanimously passed the Life Partner Registry Bill last night.  It is a positive step toward equality for all residents.  I hope this new law expanding lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the state capital will inspire state legislators to take similar action.”Lesbian and gay, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, can register with the city. Harrisburg would become the third municipality in Pennsylvania to approve this type of registry, joining Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The ordinance now awaits the approval of Mayor Stephen Reed.


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