Northfield City Council Approves Domestic Partnership Registry Ordinance
The ordinance passed with a 6-1 vote. Councilor Rhonda Pownell was the lone dissenter.
The ordinance is effective July 23.
Northfield becomes the 19th Minnesota city to pass a domestic partner registry ordinance, according to the Research and Inquiry Department of the League of Minnesota Cities and LGBT advocacy organization OutFront Minnesota. The vast majority of these communities are located within the Twin Cities metro area.
The League of Minnesota Cities defines a “domestic partner” as “two adults who share an emotional and financial relationship but choose not to marry or cannot legally marry.”
Domestic partner benefits can include health and dental insurance, employee assistance program, dependent life insurance and family medical leave.
Councilor Rhonda Pownell was the lone dissenter in Tuesday's vote.
"I do believe this is not a local issue ... It's a known state and national level issue," Pownell said at the May 15 council meeting when the ordinance received its first reading. "I do believe that it is important that all people—regardless of life choices, whatever your life choice is—should feel respected in our community, that our community should be safe, (and that) it should be healthy, regardless of how someone chooses to live their life."
At that same meeting, Mayor Mary Rossing said she was "very proud" to have the ordinance in front of her and give it its first reading.
According to Northfield's ordinance, domestic partners can receive family rates for city fees on recreational programs and general services. In the case of a patient in a health-care facility, the ordinance also says it "shall allow the patient's domestic partner, the children of the patient's domestic partner, or the domestic partner of the patient's parent or child to visit the patient."
Read the ordinance by clicking on the PDF
In January, when Councilor Betsey Buckheit brought the issue to the council, Eagan and Eden Prairie had just passed their domestic partner registry ordinances.
“It reflects an increasing agreement across Minnesota that it’s time to move forward with respect to providing some form of legal recognition for same sex couples,” Phil Duran, legal director for OutFront Minnesota, told Patch in January.
OutFront Minnesota provides technical assistance to small Minnesota communities seeking to enact pro-LGBT civic change.
Bringing the issue to Northfield
Duran was contacted by a group of Northfield residents last summer about bringing the issue to the city. In September, he led an informational session in Northfield, at which time he discussed how to contact city council members about passing a domestic partner registry ordinance. He later spoke to the council advocating for the ordinance.
Dan Hudson was one of the residents who attended Duran’s presentation. He has since been helping push the issue to the council.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” he told Patch in January. “It’s going to make domestic partners feel more welcome."
Buckheit was one of the government officials who received an email from Hudson early on.
“I think these are basic rights—to be able to marry, have your partnership, raise your children, be a useful member of society,” she said. “I don’t know why we’re trying to restrict it.”