Salt Lake City's mutual commitment registry marks Mayor Ralph Becker's first major initiative, and it nearly didn't happen after some lawmakers attempted to stymie it.
However, only 19 couples have signed up for the registry since its quiet launch on April 17, according to the city recorder's office. Now, two organizations that advocate for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are encouraging more couples to sign up.
In an action alert sent via e-mail Monday, the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah urged couples to celebrate Pride Week this week by signing up for the registry, which is open to unmarried couples who can show financial interdependence.
The alert is meant to raise awareness about the registry, said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center. Larabee says many couples may simply not have been able to find time to sign up. She plans to register her own relationship on Friday.
"I think they're just like me," Larabee said. "They're probably busy in their own lives and haven't made time to do it ... Pride Week is a perfect time."
Becker said he believes the registry "so far has been well-received," adding that he didn't have any expectations about the number of people who would register their partnerships with the city.
"We put it in place for people to take advantage of," he said. "I think it's only a matter of time before more partners register their relationships of mutual commitment."
The Utah Pride Center is honoring Becker and the Salt Lake City Council by naming them as grand marshals for the Utah Pride Parade and Festival this coming weekend.
"We saw (Becker) had really done a lot, taken a stand on this and other human rights initiatives," Larabee said. "It would have been an oversight not to award him and the City Council that award."
The action alert points to the struggle to keep the registry intact during the 2008 legislative session, and it reminds recipients of the benefits. The registry was proposed by Becker and approved by the City Council as a mechanism by which employers voluntarily can extend health-care and other benefits to their employers' domestic partners including gay couples, siblings, long-term roommates and parents. The registry also secures hospital visitation rights.
Larabee said she hopes other cities will follow Salt Lake's example. Even though not many people have signed up, the recorder's office has had to turn several others away because they do not live in Salt Lake City, said Chris Meeker, acting city recorder.
"A lot of people have been disappointed because they didn't know they had to live in the city," she said.
Meeker said she was contacted by the Utah Pride Center about encouraging couples to sign up to celebrate Pride Week.
"I'm glad they're doing that," she said. "That's a good thing."
The registry is administered by the city recorder's office, located in Room 415 of the Salt Lake City-County Building, 451 S. State. Cost to register is $25 per partnership.In order to qualify for the registry, individuals must be in a committed relationship and responsible for each other's welfare. In addition, registrants must demonstrate financial interdependence, be over 18 years old, competent to contract and share a primary residence in Salt Lake City.