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Friday, August 31, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Laughter & smiles light up Lawrence City Hall as domestic partner registry launches

Top: Steve Maceli, owner of Maceli's in Lawrence, and his partner, John Connolly, a board member of the Lawrence/Douglas Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, finally get a chance to register their partnership with the city.

Bottom: Some of the crowd at City hall this morning.

Photos by Tom Witt

More on the opening of the domestic partner registry

The Rev. Patrick Rogers, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka, attended the event to provide support and celebrate the opening of the registry. Rev. Rogers recently moved to Topeka from Houston.

Remember, you don't have to go to City Hall to register. If you are a resident of Lawrence, meet the other criteria, and pay the fee (have your credit card handy), you and your partner can register online.

Domestic partner registry brings smiles to Kansas

Top: Lori Messinger, a board member of the Lawrence/Douglas Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, has a bit of a funny look on her face (blame the photographer, which would be me), but she is exceedingly happy. Lori had a busy day, talking to reporters and participating in this Lawrence Journal-World chat about the new registry. Lori teaches at the School of Social Welfare at KU.

Bottom: Lori and Linda Luckey, another local Equality Coalition board member, organized today's event in honor of the Aug. 1 start of Lawrence's domestic partner registry. Linda works at KU and is the wife of Peter Luckey, senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church. The downtown Lawrence church was organized in 1854, and was the first church established in what was then the Kansas Territory.

Officials help with domestic partner celebration

[updated 6:05 p.m. to add detail and names]

Top Photo: Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, right, hands out chocolates to the joyful couples. Marci is a great soul and a fantastic senator. You can certainly call her a full-service lawmaker! The good senator said she and her husband were driving back from a Democratic Leadership Council event in Nashville, Tenn., recently when they stopped at a Russell Stover store. She spotted the heart shaped boxes, bought a bunch and only later realized that they would make perfect gifts for today's newly registered couples.

Bottom Photo: Lawrence Mayor Sue Hack, left, who provided one of the all important votes for the registry, stands with Natalya Lowther at this morning's registrations. Natalya testified in favor of the registry during the city hearings on the proposal. The City Commission eventually voted 4-1 for the registry.

Celebrating just a tiny bit of fairness at Lawrence City Hall today

From left to right, Sen. Marci Francisco, a very weird looking blogger (ah, that's me), Lawrence Mayor Sue Hack, Donna Swall (seated) and Forrest Swall. Donna and Forrest are long-time supporters of fairness and equal rights for lesbians and gays. They're among the movers and shakers in PFLAG in Douglas County.

Photo by Tom Witt

By the way, KCTV 5 has video posted of the event.

Lawrence domestic partner registry prompts City Hall celebration

[updated 5:50 p.m.]
Here are just some of the couples who registered today.

Top: Joyce Shontz and Danita Long have been a committed couple for 6 years. In the background are Tom Witt, state chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition, talking to a reporter. Tom is in the brown suit. Joyce, by the way, is a former president of her church board of directors. Danita teaches in the congregation's Sunday school.

Middle: Jessica Pierson, left, and Jen Humphrey, right, took some time off from work to register.

Bottom: Mike Silverman, left, and Dave Greenbaum, right, have been together for more than a decade.

Neither these photos or any of the others I've posted give a sense of the number of people who crammed into the room. The Equality Coalition had lined up four couples to register, but others kept coming.

History is made in Kansas

Lisa Miller and Pat Phillips made history today by becoming one of the first couples to register as domestic partners in Kansas. Sitting in the Lawrence City Commission meeting room, the couple filled out the online form and paid the $75 fee.

The room was packed this morning at 10 with happy couples -- both same-sex and heterosexual-- along with newspaper and TV cameras, reporters, supporters and city and state officials. I was thrilled to attend. What a happy day this was for all. To top it off, there wasn't a single protester either outside or inside City Hall.

In the first photo, Pat and Lisa concentrate on filling out the online form. In the second, Pat celebrates their registration. The couple has been together for 12 years.

"Some marriages don't last 12 years," Pat told me. "This is the first thing I've done where I feel accepted openly."

Within the first half hour of the registry being open, 12 couples had already registered.

More photos coming soon.

By the way, photographers don't need to worry about their jobs. I somehow succeeded in fuzzing up most of the photos, but more are coming soon.

The registry -- the first in the state -- was made possible by the efforts of the Lawrence/Douglas County Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition.

Kansas takes its first baby step towards fairness for all families

Join the Kansas Equality Coalition at 10 a.m. at City Hall this morning to see the first domestic partners register. This is the state's first, baby step toward providing fairness under the law to all families, including those headed by same-sex partners.

I'm looking forward to being there this morning, and I expect to post photos later today.

The registry only allows same-sex partners to prove their relationships and, thus, gain access to benefits already offered by their employers. It also shows that the city of Lawrence is welcoming to all.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports:

Theresa Shireman said the registry more than anything else is a sign of what the city stands for.

“I think it is an important thing for Lawrence to do,” said Shireman, who is raising a son with her partner, Jill Kuhnheim. “We were at a position where we were thinking about moving into Kansas City. These kind of things make an important difference in our decision.

“It is really about the community saying we accept all different types of families here, and we value diversity.”

The Associated Press story is here.

If you are a Lawrence resident and in a committed same-sex or heterosexual relationship, you can now register online at the city web site. The fee is $75. The city has also posted an FAQ on the registry. Here's a direct link to the registration form.


PHOTO: Here's a small bit of a "horrific" scene that opponents of domestic partner registries want to keep you from seeing. Click on the link to see the full photo. Of course, whether or not there is a registry or partner rights or civil unions or even marriage for same-sex couples, there will always be -- as there always have been -- families headed by lesbian and gay couples. By depriving these families of any legal recognition, the radical right is depriving children of security.