Wed, Feb

Jerome OKs civil unions


Over the summer, Jerome became the third Arizona municipality to officially recognize civil unions between same-sex partners, joining Bisbee and Tucson which passed similar rules earlier in the summer.

The civil union ordinance passed by the Jerome Town Council — as opposed to a common-law marriage, which is  determined simply by a length of time a couple is together — will be a  legally-binding contract recognized by the town. Civil unions are not restricted to homosexual couples; they can be entered into by heterosexual couples as well.Sedona may be the next town to follow, as its city council is considering a similar measure at its meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11.

Jerome passed the new rules July 30, according to Candace Gallagher, Jerome town manager and clerk.

“The town of Jerome supports the right of every person to enter into a lasting and meaningful personal relationship with the partner of his or her choice, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the parties to that relationship,” the new code states. “The town of Jerome exercises its inherent powers of self government to attempt to lessen the impact of discriminatory practices upon all persons within the town of Jerome, specifically including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. For that purpose, the town of Jerome seeks to respect, support, and facilitate the rights of all persons to enter into contractual relationships and to designate agents, to the extent permitted by the law to manage their property, to make important life decisions and to otherwise to provide and care for loved ones within a meaningful and lasting personal relationship.”

While state law approved by voters in 2008 set marriage in a heterosexual context, the individual town ordinances have been reviewed to keep things in line with the rules issued out of Phoenix.

In order to qualify under the rules set by Jerome, people engaged in a civil union must be at least 18 years old and not currently legally married under state law.

“Two eligible individuals seeking to register a civil union must complete and file a notarized affidavit, in a form to be prescribed by the town clerk, declaring their intention to register a civil union,” the new rules state.

In Sedona, the city will be looking at the possible enactment of an ordinance recognizing civil unions, i.e. recognition of the relationship of any two persons regardless of their gender or sexual orientation to manage their personal affairs through the formation of contractual agreements,” according to the city.

The rules approved by Jerome will allow same-sex couples to take advantage of certain rights that have traditionally been available only to men and women in a committed relationship.

The Jerome ruling passed without any public input.

“As explained in the memo, cities and towns can enact ordinances recognizing agreements creating civil unions to the extent that those agreements concern matters within their authority,” stated a report given to the Sedona City Council. “Ordinances cannot, however, preempt state law or attempt to grant rights and authority to couples that contravene state or federal law.”

Jerome’s laws took a slightly different approach than Bisbee, the first town to recognize civil unions.

“The Bisbee ordinance states that people authorized by state statutes to perform marriages are also authorized to ‘solemnize’ civil unions. This provision is omitted from the [proposal]. There may be legal concerns about the ability of cities and towns to authorize persons to ‘solemnize’ a civil union.”

Under the new act, the fee for registering a civil union in Jerome is $73.

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