Legislature approves domestic-partnership registry bill

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Posted: 4:45 PM- After surviving an 11th-hour effort to prohibit a domestic-partnership registry, a bill that allows the index but ensures it does not run afoul of Amendment 3 passed the Utah House today.

SB299, which will permit Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's registry so long as it does not use the phrase "domestic partner" already has cleared the Senate.

It now goes to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for his signature.

It did not come without some drama. This afternoon, Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, attempted to substitute the bill with language that would have barred the registry, which was unanimously adopted earlier this year by the City Council. The substitute measure failed on a 36-34 floor vote.

That move essentially would have restored the language introduced in the first iteration of the bill by beleaguered Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan.

Instead, a version by Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights - brokered by Bell, the city attorney and a Salt Lake City lobbyist - has survived. It passed the House 61-9.

"The only restriction at this point is that we substantively have to come up with a new name for our registry," said Ben McAdams, a legislative liaison for Becker.

The registry (under any name) provides a mechanism for employers of financially interdependent domestic partners to issue health-care benefits. It also will allow hospital visitation, though specific language to that effect was left out of SB299 despite the city's objection.

Lawmakers argue the name change is necessary to avoid any conflict with voter-approved Amendment 3, Utah's constitutional provision banning gay marriage.

Huntsman has not indicated whether he will sign the measure. But recently, the governor suggested the Legislature should not intervene with municipal decisions so long as they do not violate state law.