City Council approves commitment registry

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Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval today to legislation creating a registry of couples that are unmarried, but declare and prove a "mutual commitment" to each other, in an effort to create standards for employers, including the city, that allow partners to share employee benefits.

Councilman Bruce Kraus, who along with Council President Doug Shields wrote the legislation, said the measure "really is administrative and it really is a bit of housekeeping." But he added that it aims "to show that Pittsburgh is in fact a very progressive and forward-thinking city" and position it to "attract good-quality employers, and good-quality employees."

Its passage by a 7-1 vote brought cheers from some in the audience, who attended to receive a proclamation for Pride Week events, which start Thursday. The legislation allows straight or gay couples to gain city recognition of their commitment.

The legislation drew two opponents to council's public comment period, including one who called it "a black eye for the city" leading to "Sodom and Gomorrah."

Delta Foundation Board Member Keri Harmicar countered that "every single person in this city, and this country, and this world, has a right to happiness" and that means embracing different sexual orientations.

The legislation allows any two city residents -- unless they are too closely related to be married under state law -- to show documentary evidence of their commitment, pay $25, and be registered.

If one is a city employee, then the couple would immediately become eligible to share benefits. The city has long offered benefits to domestic partners and common law spouses of its employees, but the new legislation tightens up definitions.

Other employers could opt to accept the registrations for the purpose of granting shared benefits, but would not be obligated to do so.

Council added an amendment making the names on the registry -- but not any supporting documentation of mutual commitment -- public records.


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