Bisbee and Tucson advance civil union registries

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

EqualAfter the City of Bisbee and interested parties got together with Attorney General Tom "banned for life by the SEC" Horne to discuss the city's attempt to set up a civil union registry, they appear to have worked out their differences and come to an agreemment on the scope of that program to avoid unnecessary litigation.

This week, the Bisbee council approved civil unions measure:

The Bisbee City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a new version
of a proposed local law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.

The 5-2 vote makes Bisbee the first Arizona town to recognize civil unions.

The
council had voted May 21 to formally propose a scaled-back version of
the ordinance that would legalize civil unions for same-sex couples.

In
April, council members approved an earlier version of the measure that
sought to give people in civil unions the same benefits as those in
marriages.

But city officials decided to rewrite the measure after
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne threatened to sue over provisions
that Horne said were in conflict with state law or went beyond the
city's authority.

Horne's office said he approves of Bisbee's new version of the ordinance and won't sue to try to block it.

Under the new version, people who are in civil unions recognized only
within the city of Bisbee could file contractual statements spelling
out their agreed-upon "rights, obligations and expectations" in matters
such as inheritances, property ownership and children.

Some of
those agreements "may require additional documentation and other
formalities" to make them effective under state law, the revised
ordinance states, adding that "the city of Bisbee makes no warranty or
guarantee regarding the legality or enforceability of any agreements or
nominations of the parties."

For itself, the city said it would
recognize civil unions in connection with employee benefits and city
activities such as cemetery operations.

The ordinance retains
policy statements saying the city supports efforts to combat
discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.

The Tucson City Council as well is moving forward with updating its civil union registry. At the end of May:

The City Council unanimously approved preparation of an ordinance
empowering the issuance of civil-union certificates to domestic
partners, giving couples who can't marry a place to record any contracts
they've agreed to and greater recognition of their relationship.

The measure is expected to come back to the council this summer for final approval.

Councilwoman
Karin Uhlich said if the state and federal government won't extend
rights to same-sex couples, Tucson should do all it can.

"Thousands
of Tucson residents, like me, do not have the right to marry our chosen
loved ones in Arizona," Uhlich said through tears. "We do, however,
have the right to enter into committed relationships and to do our best
to ensure our intentions and our agreements underlying those civil
unions be honored."

Tucson was the first city in Arizona to set up a domestic-partner registry in 2003. But it offered little in tangible benefits.

Under
the new ordinance, couples can file contracts regarding inheritance
rights, power of attorney, living wills and more. The idea is to give
couples who can't marry a document listing their commitments with a
stamp of approval from the city.

City Attorney Mike Rankin said as
long as the city doesn't offer rights reserved for married couples, the
measure should not violate state law.

Since the city enacted its original registry on Dec. 1, 2003, it has issued 1,268 domestic-partnership certificates.

Other cities and towns in Arizona are expected to follow the example of Bisbee and Tucson.

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