Mayor Ralph Becker's proposed citywide domestic-partnership registry has passed a review of the Salt Lake City Council and next will go before the public.

The ordinance, submitted to the council on Becker's third full day as mayor, would provide a means of legal recognition to gay couples and other unmarried unions.

"I appreciate Mayor Becker bringing this forward at this time," Councilman Van Turner said during a City Council work session Tuesday. "I think it's the right thing to do."

Later Tuesday, the City Council scheduled a public hearing on the proposed ordinance for its Feb. 5 meeting.

Under the proposed ordinance, qualifying couples who take part in the voluntary program would receive a certificate from City Hall attesting to their domestic-partner status, which could be used to assist employers in determining the domestic status of individuals applying for health care or other benefits.

"This is a voluntary tool that employers can use to offer benefits to their employees," said David Everitt, Becker's chief of staff. "We simply hope that it helps them do so."

Councilman Eric Jergensen called the proposed ordinance a logical next step to the City Council's February 2006 action that extended health benefits to adult partners, siblings, long-term roommates and parents of city employees.

Council members suggested minor modifications to the ordinance, but none of them expressed any opposition to Becker's proposal.

In order to qualify for domestic-partner status, according to the ordinance, individuals must be in a relationship of mutual support, caring and commitment, and be responsible for each other's welfare.

In addition, registrants must be each other's sole domestic partner, over 18 years old, competent to contract and share a primary residence in Salt Lake City.

Those wanting to register would first obtain from the city a declaration of domestic partnership form, which must be signed by both parties and notarized. It then would be kept on file in the city recorder's office.

The proposed fee for filling a domestic-partner declaration is $25. All administrative costs of the program would be absorbed by the city recorder's office.

According to the mayor's office, the city has legal authority to create a domestic-partnership registry under the general welfare clause of Utah code, which grants the city the power to "preserve the health and promote the prosperity, improve the morals, peace and good order, comfort and convenience of the city and its inhabitants."

The mayor's office also contends that the ordinance does not conflict with the state statute defining marriage.

Mayor Becker is in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and did not attend Tuesday's council meeting.

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