Salt Lake County is poised to create a "mutual commitment registry" that could help an individual in a nontraditional relationship obtain access to his or her partner's benefits including a family pass at county recreation centers.
The County Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to give preliminary approval to an ordinance instructing the county clerk to set up a "registry for adult relationships of financial dependence or interdependence."
That registry, said sponsoring Democratic Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw, gives important government recognition to "relationships of mutual commitment, support and caring, where the parties to the relationship participate to support the financial and physical welfare of each other and intend to continue in this manner."
Its establishment also shows Salt Lake County supports the community's family-centered culture, he added, "recognizing that there are different types of relationships and people dependent on each other outside of the state's definition of marriage."
Bradshaw, who is gay, said that while the registry is likely to be utilized most by same-sex couples, it has broader application a point illustrated in an anecdote recited by Richard Snelgrove, one of the council's more conservative Republicans.
Snelgrove noted that, before her passing, he was his mother's caregiver in the final years of her life. "It was just the two of us. We could have entered into a mutual commitment" and made it easier to deal with financial issues that arose, he said.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen will start setting up the voluntary registry if the council gives final approval to the ordinance on June 4.
To register, couples will have to provide documentation of their common financial obligations, such as supplying copies of joint mortgages, car loans, life-insurance policies, mutually granted power of attorney or shared bank accounts. They also must sign a declaration of mutual commitment, and agree to formally terminate the registry entry if the relationship ends.
"It's a higher threshold than to get a marriage license," Bradshaw noted.
"This is a very, very important ordinance," said Democrat Randy Horiuchi, Bradshaw's co-sponsor. "It really does give nontraditional couples an opportunity to have their relationship codified. That's important in today's world of passports and benefits packages.
"And it gives the good old 'county seal of approval,' which is always good," he added.
Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, expressed "profound gratitude" to the council for endorsing the concept, adding that it extends the county's "tradition of inviting all residents to participate fully" in all things the county has to offer.
Swensen said she expects to charge about $30 to sign the registry, same as the cost of a marriage license, and to have a termination fee as well.
"It will be revenue neutral, not a big financial burden at all," she said, noting that applications to sign Salt Lake City's registry have slowed after its first year, when 43 were submitted.
In the council's unanimous vote, Chairman Steve DeBry abstained "I was undecided," he said and Councilman David Wilde was absent.