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Public forum held to discuss domestic partnership registry in Red Wing

Phil Duran, staff attorney for OutFront Minnesota, and Ardell Brede, mayor of Rochester, listen during Red Wing's public forum Tuesday on domestic partnership registries. Under the possible ordinance, couples would pay a fee of $50 to be recognized as domestic partners by the city.

A group urging a domestic partnership registry in Red Wing is taking the next steps to making the registry a reality.

Red Wing Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays held a public forum Tuesday evening at Christ Episcopal Church at which a proposed first draft of the ordinance was shown to the public.

"We can live up to our own dreams that we are a community that embraces diversity," local attorney Jack Strobel said in support of the registry.

Strobel helped write the proposed draft of the ordinance and explained some of the language in it during the forum. He said he drew heavily on the domestic registry ordinances in place in other Minnesota cities such as Minneapolis and Rochester.

Strobel explained that the ordinance wouldn't give anyone privileges or rights and it wouldn't require anyone to do anything for someone else.

"It only gives the city the right to issue a certificate," he said.

This means businesses wouldn't be required to recognize partnerships or give benefits to their employees' domestic partners.

But a registry would make it easier for businesses to do so if they wanted to, said Phil Duran, staff attorney for gay and lesbian advocacy group OutFront Minnesota, who also spoke at the forum. It could also mean domestic partners might have an easier time visiting each other in hospitals.

But, Duran said, a registry is really about respect.

"This is the first opportunity for these couples to be able to document their existence," Duran said. "It is a small measure of dignity, but it's very, very critical."

'A non-issue'

Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede also spoke at the forum. Brede helped get a domestic partnership registry established in Rochester last June.

Brede said since then the registry has been a "non-issue." He said 12 couples have registered so far, including both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Red Wing's proposed registry would also be open to all couples.

"I'm glad we did it," Brede said. "It was the right thing to do."

Council member Peggy Rehder said so far only one person has expressed concerns about the registry to her.

"What I've heard, the positive (feedback) outweighs the negative," she said. But she also said many people might not yet be aware of the potential for the registry. "It's not on people's radar yet."

The Red Wing Human Rights Commission will hold a workshop March 24 to discuss whether the group should make a recommendation for the registry to the City Council. Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Joanne Pohl urged Red Wing residents to express concerns or comments about the registry to council members.

The Red Wing AAUW, the League of Women Voters and the Human Rights Commission co-sponsored Tuesday's forum.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.