STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) - Stevens Point will move forward on a proposal to recognize domestic partnerships. That decided at the City Council meeting Monday night.
Several residents spoke against the move on moral and religious grounds. Others supported the changes, saying it is time to treat same-sex partners equally.
Aldermen discussed the proposal at length, and pointed out language in the plan that would actually discriminate against opposite-sex couples by making city benefits available to same-sex partners. Council members amended the plan to include both, which Mayor Andrew Halverson agrees with. “That was taken care of by an amendment tonight, and I think it’s absolutely the right direction for us to move in. The same-sex component of it is recognized, as is the opposite-sex component of it, and we will be coming through with our affidavit process, our registration process, which the Personnel Committee can approve next month.”
During the public hearing, residents including Ray Heitzinger asked why the Council “would be approving of sinful activity” and going against the statewide referendum in 2006 where people voted that marriage is between one man and one woman. Supporter Julie Schneider pointed out that in that 2006 referendum, no Stevens Point ward supported that position. Opponent Ben Kureck cited several Bible verses and asked, “How can you call yourself Christian if you vote yes?” Supporter Laura Goetz noted several other Bible verses related to working on Sundays to men trimming their beards, or touching the skin of a dead pig that show how people pick and choose the Bible verses they wish to believe.
Mayor Halverson says the discussion was very good from both sides of the issue, and is pleased with the decision to move forward with the change. “I’m very proud that the Alderpersons made the step that they did today, because I think the more inclusive a community can be and setting that tone, I think that always puts the community on the best foot it can have.”
City Attorney Andrew Logan Beveridge told the Council there were two state statutes to base the policy on. Section 40 or section 770 have domestic partner language, but Beveridge says there’s a difference. “Chapter 770, as Alderperson (Mike) Wiza stated, is specifically about domestic partnerships. It’s about creating a state law construct where you can register for a domestic partnership. Now, people would do that for certain purposes like having custodial rights and terms of hospital visitation, terms of end-of-live decisions, that sort of thing.” adding, “40 does not include that people be of the same sex. 770 does.”
Beveridge says he’s glad the City Council voted to amend the proposal to include both same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, to reduce the risk of a discrimination challenge. “I think the risk there would be small, but it’s hard to say because the courts have never answered that question, whether granting this to same-sex couples but not opposite-sex couples, whether that really does count as discrimination.”
The City Council passed the concept on a 9-2 vote. Now, Beveridge will work with the Personnel Director and the Mayor to draft the actual language of the ordinance for presentation to committees and the full council next month.