Moab becomes first rural Utah town to approve mutual commitment registry
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Oct 24, 2013 | 3969 views | 0 0 comments | 103 103 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Same-sex couples and unmarried people in committed relationships could soon have greater access to health care benefits and other privileges.

The Moab City Council voted 4-1 on Oct. 22 to approve an ordinance that creates a mutual commitment registry at the city recorder’s office. Council member Gregg Stucki voted against Kirstin Peterson’s motion.

The registry, which will take effect 30 days after the council’s action, will allow employers within the city limits to offer benefits to anyone who signs up.

But it will not force them to do so.

“This is an optional program,” Mayor Dave Sakrison said. “It’s not a ‘you’ve got to do this’ sort of thing.”

People who sign the registry will also gain access to city facilities and programs that their spouses or children have signed up for, including the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center.

The city’s pending registry appears to be the first of its kind in rural Utah, or anywhere in the Beehive State beyond the Salt Lake County line, for that matter.

Moab Pride Vice President Jenn Oestreich, who served as the driving force behind the ordinance, noted that it will not apply solely to same-sex couples.

Opposite-sex couples, people in committed friendships, adult dependents and anyone else who declares a relationship of mutual commitment also stand to gain from the new registry.

“Overall, it’s a huge step, and I think it’s going to benefit a lot of people,” she said Oct. 23.

City residents who want to file a mutual commitment declaration with the recorder’s office will be required to pay a $25 fee. They must be at least 18 years old, and they must submit three kinds of documentation proving that they share common financial obligations, such as paperwork showing a joint mortgage, lease or loan obligation, proof of a joint bank or credit account and other legal or financial documents.

In return, the recorder’s office will give each person a certified copy of the official declaration.

The council passed the ordinance with minimal discussion, although Stucki said he struggled with the fact that it allows unmarried opposite-sex couples to sign up through the registry.

“[They] already have a great way to show their commitment, and that’s marriage,” he said during the Oct. 22 meeting.

Oestreich, however, said those couples will actually have to file more paperwork if they choose the mutual commitment path.

“People don’t really have to prove anything to get married,” she said.

But even if the process is more cumbersome, Oestreich believes the registry will make life easier for people in the long run.

For one thing, it will give them the same hospital visitation rights that married couples enjoy, and that’s a huge weight off her mind.

“My biggest concern as an aging person is having a partner (who) doesn’t have to go through a lot of red tape to be by my bedside,” she said.

“This piece of paper will kind of cut through the red tape.”

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