TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- All unwed couples in Topeka can register as Domestic Partners as of Monday morning.
The city officially launched its domestic partnership registry. The City Clerk's office was quiet Monday morning.
"I thought there'd be a few that would come in at 8 o'clock," said city clerk Brenda Younger. "I was a little surprised."
Younger was prepared for the launch.
City Councilman Chad Manspeaker championed an ordinance allowing all unmarried couples to sign up.
As of 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, two couples registered online.
Tim and Janet were the first to register at about 8:30 a.m. They said they did it as a practical matter - to qualify for a discounted gym membership.
"We went to the gym to fill out the application, and was told that since we're an opposite sex couple the gym manager had to make that decision on a case by case basis," Tim told 13 News.
TIm and Janet are engaged, and planning on buying a house to unify their households. They are both in their mid 50s and have grown children. Registering for them would simply prove to the city that they are a domestic partnership and should get the membership.
"If we were a same sex couple we think it would've been as a matter of course and policy because of what we're learning as a common definition of a domestic partnership." Tim told us most people think a domestic partnership constitutes a homosexual pair. "But aren't there lots of folks, not just in Topeka, but all around, in committed relationships that live together?"
Tim says that while their reason was simple, the ordinance may mean much more for other couples who want their relationship recognized by a government entity, although it creates no legal rights.
"We think everybody should have equal rights and opportunities. Everybody," Tim said. "And a domestic partnership can be same sex or opposite sex couples. So if there's a rule that says we extend this benefit to domestic partnerships, then everyone in a domestic partnership should be able to take advantage of whatever that benefit is."
Another couple registered around 11 a.m. Monday morning. They are also a heterosexual couple. They did not want their names released, but told 13 News they registered so they could share the same insurance plan which would save $400 per month. They live together and consider themselves a domestic partnership.
"Sometimes marriage isn't for everybody," the female partner told us, "they should know this is an option for them."
Mayor Larry Wolgast passed by the clerk's office and was able to share his thoughts on the registry.
"I know some of the major companies in Topeka recognize partners for benefits. This will help to clarify the issue for them," Wolgast said. "The city council took the action to approve this. I think it's appropriate that we allow all of the citizens to live the life they choose."
When asked if he was surprised about the low turnout Monday morning, Manspeaker told 13 News: "Our city government allowed two couples to show their commitment to one another. What a great thing. No disappointment here."
Tim said he was surprised that more folks didn't sign up and hopes he and Janet can spread awareness about domestic partnership registry becoming an option for more couples.
The registry doesn't offer couples any additional rights, Manspeaker pointed out when he proposed it back in April, but it does offer them something they never had before -- proof.
"They will be able to have something that proves their partnership. That insurance companies and hospitals would accept. It's document that proves that relationship is real," said Manspeaker at the time.
Those wanting to do so in person, can head to the City Clerk's Office on the 1st floor of City Hall, 215 SE 7th Street, anytime between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Both people must be present at the time and they are both required to bring photo identification. They will also have to pay a $50 fee (cash or check).
To register by mail, download all the forms from the City's website here and mail them to the City Clerk's Office.
Online registration begins Monday at 8:00 a.m., as well. Click here to go to the website. Credit/debit cards will be accepted online through a secure payment system.
Here is the criteria the city says partners must meet to register:
Couples who register will receive a certificate validating their partnerships within two weeks of their application date.
Anyone with questions is asked to call the City Clerk's Office at (785) 368-3940.
Posted by: Sarah Plake and Nick Viviani