TOPEKA - The Topeka City Council approved two ordinances aimed at reducing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, after hearing emotional testimony from both sides of the issue.
The council on Tuesday approved establishing a city domestic partnership registry for same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are not married. It approved a second ordinance that would ban the city from discriminating in employment and hiring based on gender identity. That measure also requires the city to make a good faith effort to provide health coverage for any city employees registered as part of a domestic partnership, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Councilman Chad Manspeaker's, who sponsored the ordinances, said the approval tells the rest of the world "that Topeka is an open, inclusive community and that we welcome all people here and we look forward to grow in that direction."
Topeka is the home of Westboro Baptist Church, which has become infamous for its anti-gay protests. It joins Lawrence as the only two cities in Kansas that have domestic partner registries.
Both measures were decided after the council rejected a motion to put the issues up for a public vote.
The council chamber was filled to capacity as several people testified for and against the proposals before the votes. Both issues passed with 5-3 votes.
The city attorney will now determine the costs and procedures for how the registry will work.
Manspeaker said Wednesday that domestic partner registries will provide a legal document for those who register to use to receive benefits for their partners or to show standing to make medical decisions for a partner who is hospitalized. He said the registries are also symbolic in a state that bans same-sex marriage.
"There are grey areas in law when it comes to same-sex relationships, where the partners are or are not recognized," he said. "We want to provide people who voluntarily declare their love and commitment an official document that declares that 'this is my partner.'"