Gay marriage supporters are fighting hard against a proposed amendment that would enshrine the current heterosexual-only definition of marriage into the state constitution.
But few couples have taken advantage of the option that’s already available in Hopkins: a domestic partner registry approved Sept. 27, 2011.
Just four couples had used the city’s registry for unmarried couples, City Clerk Kris Luedke told Patch Wednesday.
Two of those couples were heterosexual, and two were homosexual.
Hopkins grad Peter Boisclair—now a student at Northland College, in Ashland, WI—first proposed the registry in July 2011. Supporters say registration makes it easier for unmarried couples to obtain hospital visitation rights and benefits from employers that offer domestic partner benefits, and Boisclair is quick to distinguish the marriage amendment debate from his push for a Hopkins registry.
“They are two separate recognitions by government entities on relationships,” he said.
But the registries can also be a symbolic vote in support of same-sex marriage while actual marriage remains off the table for gay and lesbian couples. Critics of gay marriage call domestic partner registries a PR stunt without the force of law.
Yet Hopkins’ registry appears to have slipped quietly from residents’ attention. Alida Winternheimer and Scott Stillman were the first couple to register, stopping by City Hall right after it took effect Oct. 7. Three more signed up that same year, and no one has registered so far in 2012.
Boisclair said the numbers are about what he expected based on the results he’s seen in neighboring communities. And even with the low numbers, he thinks a domestic partnership ordinance carries a highly symbolic message.
“I think it’s highlighting the fact that it’s open to everyone for the love and commitment that they share,” Boisclair said. “Domestic partnerships set the tone for other communities.”
Still, he would like the city to put more emphasis on promoting the ordinance. The city does have information about the registry on its website, but Boisclair wishes Hopkins would remind residents about registry details at least once or twice a year—perhaps with notices in utility bills.
“As of now, it’s the closest a same-sex couple has to getting married,” he said.