Mesa councilman wants domestic-partner registry
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.06.2009
PHOENIX — Mesa may become the third city in the state to offer hospital-visitation rights to unmarried gay or straight couples who live together.
Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh has asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would allow domestic partners to register their relationships with the city. If approved, Mesa would join Phoenix and Tucson in providing a domestic-partner registry.
Phoenix’s became effective in February, and Tucson authorized one in 2003.
“It’s not creating gay marriage,” Kavanaugh said. “The sole purpose is to ensure visitation rights for people who are in unmarried-partner relationships.”
In November, Arizona voters approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage.
A domestic-partner registry allows unmarried couples the same rights as relatives when it comes to visitations at hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care facilities.
It may seem incongruous that Mesa would consider the idea. The city’s legislative delegation is consistently to the right on the political spectrum, and Mesa’s reputation as a bastion of Mormon conservatism has survived decades of growth and demographic change.
But a precedent was set 500 miles to the north, from where Mesa’s 1870s pioneers migrated — Salt Lake City.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith likes to say that Salt Lake City is Mesa on steroids because Utah’s capital and its metro area of a million-plus residents has many of Mesa’s religious and civic attributes.
Last year, the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously to set up a domestic-partner registry. In response to a new Utah law outlawing that term, the city changed it to a mutual-commitment registry a few months later, but the purpose is the same.
So far 43 couples have signed up, according to the Salt Lake City Recorder’s Office.
Kavanaugh said he could not cite any cases in Mesa where domestic partners were barred from a health-care facility, but that it’s been a problem nationally.
“We have all seen so many situations where you have those unexpected medical emergencies and people in long-standing relationships have the barriers to get information or to be with their partner,” he said. “This is, I think, an equitable response to an inequitable situation.”
In a Miami, Fla. case that made national headlines, Janice Langbehn is suing Jackson Memorial Hospital over that facility’s refusal to let her visit her partner, Lisa Pond, after Pond suffered a fatal brain aneurism in 2007.
Kavanaugh said he hopes Mesa’s Human Relations Advisory Board will consider the idea early this year and forward it to the council for approval.
He said couples who register would be charged a fee to offset the city’s costs.