The sponsor of a new bill aimed at defining benefits cities can offer said he isn't trying to stymie Salt Lake City's efforts to provide health-care benefits to unmarried partners.
However, advocates for the Salt Lake registry say SB299 would do just that.
It clearly prevents local governments from creating a registry that "defines, identifies, or recognizes and gives legal status or effect to a domestic partnership, civil union or other domestic relationship."
Salt Lake City recently passed a registry that gives unmarried couples a way to provide evidence for employers that choose to offer domestic partner benefits. It also provides for hospital visitation rights.
"It's kind of a battle of code words," Bell said. "All I'm trying to do here is make sure the protection of marriage in Amendment 3 is not compromised."
Salt Lake City officials say the domestic-partnership registry, as proposed by Mayor Ralph Becker and approved by the City Council on Feb. 5, complies with Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and other domestic unions.
"If the concern is that this concept of a domestic-partnership registry is somehow interfering with marriage as defined in Utah law, then why not just write a law that says a domestic partnership is not the equivalent of marriage?" Becker suggested. "If that's the concern, then say that. We're fine with that. This is not intended to be marriage. This is intended to provide benefits and services in the city."
City officials are worried that SB299 also will affect the City Council's February 2006 action that extended health benefits to adult designees of city employees.
Will Carlson of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah said if SB299 were to pass, the city would have to rewrite its health insurance ordinance and the registry would be eliminated.
"It doesn't even let the city offer registry-based benefits," Carlson said. "We're going to fight it at every level on the Senate side and rely on the House's assertion that this issue isn't a priority."
Lisa Roskelley, spokeswoman for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. declined to comment, saying the governor had yet to review the bill.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, had introduced a bill to halt the registry earlier in the session, but amid Buttars' political woes that bill won't likely come to a vote.Instead, SB299, which was released Wednesday, lists every GOP senator as a co-sponsor.