Same-sex couples registry discussed by council Tuesday night

East Lansing might see a registry symbolically recognizing same-sex couples within city limits if privacy concerns with such a list can be addressed.

Nathan Triplett, East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem, presented the idea of a domestic partnership registry to acknowledge all couples at Tuesday night’s city council work session.

The registry, nearly identical to an ordinance Ann Arbor has held for more than 20 years, would allow any couple to officially register their partnership with the city.

Although the ordinance would not change either partner’s legal benefits, Triplett said it would give acceptance to couples whose relationship is not recognized by state law.

“Michigan arguably has the most restrictive ban on marriage equality, as interpreted by our Supreme Court,” Triplett said. “(The ordinance) provides what limited recognition we can … but more importantly, what this conversation illustrates is the absurdity of the unequal treatment between an opposite-sex couple and a same-sex couple.”

Council members seemed to support the idea of formally recognizing same-sex couples, but were concerned adding a registry could put the privacy of those couples at risk.

It is unclear whether the records would be public information or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, City Attorney Tom Yeadon said.

If someone intended to bring harm to registered couples, councilmember Kevin Beard said the registry could subject them to unwanted attention.

“My sole reservation is that we create a list that’s accessible to people of bad intent to target people … that we inadvertently do something that will set up these folks for mischief,” Beard said.

The logistics of the registry process would be left almost entirely up to the City Clerk’s Office. City Clerk Marie McKenna said the addition of a registry would not cause any difficulty on her end.

“I don’t see this as any burden on my office beyond notarizing a document, which we do on a regular basis,” McKenna said.

The fee for couples to register would not exceed $20, McKenna said.

The proposal was tabled for the time being and will be presented again at a September work session.

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