Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Citing privacy and added work, the Missoula City Council on Wednesday agreed to repeal a 2013 resolution that created a domestic partnership registry to recognize unmarried couples, including same-sex relationships.

The city's 2013 resolution came two years before a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal, which made the registry less potent. With same-sex marriage now legal, the registry is largely used by heterosexual couples.

“Our registry has evolved as a way for resident to present this certificate to their employer to receive domestic partner benefits,” said City Clerk Marty Rehbein. “In our experience, same-sex couples now have a better option across the street with the Clerk of District Court in actually being able to become married.”

Same-sex marriage was prohibited back in 2013 when the Missoula City Council took the lead in adopting a resolution to create a domestic partnership registry. The registry recognized the “mutual support, caring and commitment unmarried couples have in their relationships,” be it a heterosexual or same-sex couple.

For some, creating the registry was a powerful tool in receiving official recognition of their partnership.

“This registry has given me some big highlights in my career,” Rehbein said. “The day we launched it, we had a couple come in. They brought their family and we took pictures. It was a wonderful day at the office.”

But in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. That in some ways diminished the power of the registry, according to Rehbein.

In its place, the city will now evolve the program from a registry to an affidavit declaration, which will be available on the city's website. Couples can have the affidavit notarized and present it to their employer for benefits, just as before.

The same will be offered for the dissolution of domestic partnerships. The registry itself will end.

“It's a privacy issue. Up until this time, the City of Missoula has been keeping a registry of all registered domestic partners. This is a private thing, and we at the City of Missoula shouldn't be keeping a registry of all that.”

While all agreed that the registry was no longer needed, some expressed concern that the Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, may overturn that 2015 decision that made same-sex marriage legal.

A majority of the court has already overturned a previous decision that made abortion legal. One of the justices in that opinion – Clarence Thomas – wrote in a concurring opinion that the court should reconsider the decision on same-sex marriage, saying it was a “demonstrably erroneous decision.”

If that were to happen, the Missoula City Council retains the option of reinstating the registry.

“I would be willing to go out on a limb to say if that happens, the City of Missoula would do more than this registry,” Rehbein said. “The council has the power to reinstate the registry, and the power to declare policy here. Council is not precluded from responding to a Supreme Court decision were it to come down.”