Cleveland City Council approved a
domestic partner registry for gay and straight couples at its Monday
Passage of the registry was difficult
in a state where voters passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans
in the country four years ago.
The non-binding registry lacks the
serious muscle of marriage or even civil unions; any benefits
extended to couples would be strictly voluntary. But gay rights
groups contend that in a state like Ohio, where city leaders have
been hobbled by a broad constitutional amendment that forbids
extending any marriage-like benefits to gay couples, it is a good
Sue Doerfer, executive director of the
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater
Cleveland, told Cleveland's Plain Dealer that the registry
gives couples a sense of legitimacy when seeking out rights and
“It sends out a message that
Cleveland is welcome to them,” Doerfer said.
Opposition to the registry came mostly
from social conservatives. Several council members said they were
being pressured by church groups to oppose the legislation.
Councilman Kevin Conwell said that he received “more than 70
calls over the weekend.”
City leaders say the registry is an
attempt to bolster Cleveland's image as a gay-friendly town as it
bids to host the 2014 Gay Games, an international gay and lesbian
sporting event. Other American cities included in the running are
Boston and Miami. Chicago, which hosted the event in 2006, estimates
it attracted 140,000 visitors to its Lake Michigan shores with an
overall economic impact of $50-to-$80 million. Cologne, Germany has
been selected to host the 2010 games.
The legislation, introduced by
Councilman Joe Cimperman, passed with a vote of 13-7. Voting against
the legislation were Democrats Phyllis Cleveland, Roosevelt Coats,
Kenneth Johnson, Sabra Pierce Scott, Terrell Pruitt, Zack Reed and TJ
Mayor Frank Jackson has said he would
sign the registry into law.