ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – The Twin Cities suburbs of Crystal and Falcon Heights may soon join 11 other Minnesota cities by offering opposite-sex and same sex-couples a way to have their relationships recognized through domestic partner registries.
Those who back the registries say they are an important symbol of inclusion ahead of an upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage, even if the registries don’t have much legal authority, Minnesota Public Radio New reported in a story published Friday.
Minnesota cities can acknowledge the unmarried couples in their communities by registering their relationships at city hall, but cities don’t have the power to decide who can marry. However, registering with the city may be enough to get domestic partner benefits from employers that offer them.
Phil Duran, a staff attorney for Out Front Minnesota, which provides technical advice to cities on the registries, said the four most populous cities in the state already offer registries, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Rochester.
“What really changed was in 2010, Edina became the first suburb to pass an ordinance of this sort, and that seemed to be a game changer,” Duran said.
After Edina came the suburbs of Richfield, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, Maplewood and Robbinsdale. Outside the Twin Cities area, there’s also a registry in Red Wing. Duran said more than 1 million Minnesotans now live in communities that have partnership registries.
“To some degree, the train has left the station,” Duran said.
The conservative Minnesota Family Council opposes the registries but hasn’t put much effort into fighting them, said group President Tom Prichard. Instead, the organization has focused its efforts on next year’s vote on a state constitutional amendment that would define marriage as the right of opposite-sex couples only.
“These efforts to pass registries, which don’t have legal impact but are more of a political statement, ultimately do point to the marriage issue because normally they’ve been a stepping stone from domestic partnerships, to civil unions, to ultimately marriage,” Prichard said. “And that’s why we think it’s important that people are able to address that ultimate question of marriage.”
Rochester has had its registry for about a year, and 21 couples have signed up. The first pair was Michael Fridgen and Don Lewis. Fridgen said they had already been married in Iowa when that state legalized same-sex marriage, and before that they had a private ceremony for family and friends.
“We’d already had those two experiences,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that going to the city clerk’s office would be as big a deal as it was. But it was very cathartic to know that in the actual place where we live, that we’re recognized and welcomed.”
City boards in both Crystal and Falcon Heights were scheduled to consider registry ordinances this week.
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