It appears Salt Lake City's domestic partner registry is safe, even if the name might need to change.
In a 61-9 vote, the House approved SB299 today, which is aimed setting guidelines for cities that opt to provide benefits to unmarried couples, without violating Amendment 3, Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and substantially similar civil unions.
SB299 now moves to the governor. It would allow local registries based on financial dependence or interdependence, and allow local governments to offer employee benefits using the same standards. It would also prevent cities from setting up domestic partnerships or civil unions.
While a recall is possible, the bill now appears headed to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. for final approval. Lisa Roskelley, the governor's spokeswoman said "it turned out to be a bill the governor can support."
The House vote came after an unsuccessful attempt to modify the bill to prohibit local registries and put stricter limits on how cities and counties can offer benefits to adult designees of employees.
Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, said the bill needed changing because extending benefits beyond simple health insurance is "problematic for me and may have unintended consequences."
Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake, said Noel's version would go so far as to disqualify some Salt Lake City employees from insurance they already have based on financial interdependence with an adult designee.
"It limits the adult who can be a designee as somebody who is actually financially dependent," Biskupski said. That means, she said, some designees would "have to choose to give up their health insurance or give up their job ... It gets in the way of what the city is trying to do, which is insure as many people as they can."
Salt Lake City government officials remain opposed to SB299, saying the legislation isn't necessary, but they're not actively lobbying against the latest version of the bill.
"We're pleased that the legislation, at this point, is permissive," said Ben McAdams, Mayor Ralph Becker's senior advisor for intergovernmental affairs. "We're confident that our registry can move forward in substance with minor alterations."
Addressing the Salt Lake City Council during a work session Tuesday afternoon, McAdams said the lone substantive change to the city's domestic partnership registry is its name.However, the proposed amendment would bring the bill's language back to the original intent of Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, who had originally carried legislation to bar Salt Lake's registry. That bill is being held in the Senate and is unlikely to resurface.