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In a unanimous vote, the City Council approved a new ordinance Tuesday that allows for domestic partnerships and civil unions between same-sex couples. Tucson is the second Arizona city, after Bisbee, to recognize civil unions.
Previously, Councilwoman Karin Uhlich had said that Tucson should do everything it can to increase rights for same-sex couples if the state and federal governments fail to do so.
“This was an important step for us to take and we’re going to keep seeking steps to reinforce non-discrimination,” Uhlich said at Tuesday's meeting. “I think there’s been widespread support throughout the community and people are really pleased to see it pass. I hope the Supreme Court rules in the support of marriage equality and that the country starts to turn the corner on that form of discrimination."
The measure was approved 6-0; Councilwoman Regina Romero was absent.
With the new ordinance in effect, same-sex couples will have the right to file contracts of inheritance rights, power of attorney, and living wills, among others.
Erin Durban-Albrecht, who attended the meeting with her partner, Gayle Brick-Albrecht and their baby Fenniver, has experienced restrictions based on her sexual orientation.
“Both our names couldn’t be on the birth certificate when she [Fenniver] was born,” said Durban-Albrecht. “She’s [Brick-Albrecht] not legally recognized as a parent.”
Still, Brick-Albrecht, who is the co-chair of the Tucson Commission for GLBT issues, was pleased with the vote.
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“Even in the reasonably progressive municipality of Tucson there are policies, environments, and situations which reduce the LGBT community to second-class citizens,” said Brick-Albrecht.
“As one-half of a domestic partnership I am personally encouraged that in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage nor grant second-parent adoptions to gay and lesbian parents, that if the city of Tucson will recognize my family, it may mitigate some of the hardships that we face everyday,” she said.
No state law should be violated as long as the city does not include rights that are reserved for married couples, said City Attorney Mike Rankin. Since 2003, when the city established a domestic-partnership registry, it has had an increased number of domestic partnership applications.
However, Brick-Albrecht does not want people to become too content with the small success. She believes that further progress has yet to be made on the modern day civil-rights issue.
“It deepens the support of the city by adding some provisions for including additional documentation in your civil union recognition, but it only goes so far,” said Brick-Albrecht. “I would like to see same-sex unions legitimized the same way same sex unions are legitimized. I think until that’s available to everybody we still aren’t there. As long as we’re considered not a family and can’t access the same benefits, rights, and opportunities, then there’s a problem. Especially since the city of Tucson operates under an ordinance that says it doesn’t discriminate.”
Councilman Paul Cunningham said that the ordinance is only a small success on the larger battle for complete marriage equality.
“This is so important for the youth that are just finding out that they are gay or lesbian,” said Cunningham. “We’re only half way there.”