Harrisburg City Council Proposes “Life Partnership Registry”

July 30, 2008

Typically  a full time employee is afforded the benefit of health insurance by an employer.  A full time employee is usually able to cover a spouse and children at an additional cost.  However more and more companies have been extending health insurance to also include a domestic partner of a full time employee.

Just two weeks ago Harrisburg City Council Vice President, Dan Miller proposed an ordinance that would create a "life partnership registry" for the City of Harrisburg. The proposed legislation would create a registry where individuals could voluntarily register their life partners. The registry would be used as a base business record for businesses who choose to offer health insurance to an employee’s unmarried partner. The registry would cover individuals who live or work in Harrisburg. 

The concept of a domestic registry is not new. States like Maryland, Vermont,  California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and the District of Columbia have established registries.  Similarly Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have also established registries.  Several states already have statutes on civil unions and domestic partnerships.

The Harrisburg City bill’s proponent advised that the Harrisburg City government already offers benefits to employees’ domestic partners as a matter of policy. The proposed legislation would not mandate city employers provide life partners health benefits, but would assist employers and registered life partners should the employer choose to offer the coverage. The life partner designation would also grant domestic partners, committed to each other’s maintenance and well being, visitation rights in health care facilities located within Harrisburg City limits. Eligible couples need to be over 18 years old and living in the same home. They also need to meet three of five financial criteria, such as sharing a mortgage, bank account or being designated as a beneficiary on their partners’ life insurance policy. The bill is expected to be voted on in the Fall of 2008, and has the backing of two other City Council Members.

Advocate groups were quick to point out that the bill benefits the unmarried heterosexual community as well as the homosexual community. "We think this is an important step toward assuring that those citizens who share a committed life partnership are granted the same rights as any other citizen in the same situation." Council Vice President Miller said. "This includes health care and visitation rights."