HARRISBURG- Tonight Harrisburg City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to create the Life Partnership Registry, allowing unmarried, committed couples to affirm their relationships with the city. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania congratulated city council for advancing the civil rights of LGBT people and unmarried heterosexual couples in Harrisburg.

"With this vote, city council has furthered the cause of justice," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU of PA. "The unfortunate reality is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are second-class citizens in many ways.

"This new avenue for recognizing committed couples in Harrisburg is a step forward in giving them equality with their married neighbors."

Under the ordinance, LGBT and unmarried heterosexual couples can register with the city as life partners, after showing several forms of proof of the existence of their relationship. Registration gives a couple documentation of their relationship that can then be used with employers that offer domestic partner benefits. The couples will also have some of the other rights currently available to married couples, including hospital visitation, real estate transactions, bereavement leave, and other benefits available from the city.

"The ordinance is both symbolic and practical," Hoover said. "Registered couples would be able to engage in the kind of everyday transactions that married couples take for granted."

Hoover noted that lesbian and gay couples would not be the only beneficiaries of the ordinance. Unmarried heterosexual couples can also register with the city. This is particularly advantageous for older couples who are in committed relationships without the formality of marriage, relationships that often commence after the death of a spouse or after divorce, Hoover said.

The ordinance now awaits the approval of Mayor Stephen Reed.

According to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group, Harrisburg would become the third municipality in Pennsylvania to approve this kind of registry, joining Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh approved similar legislation in June.