Gay rights advocates in Cleveland, Ohio
are holding their collective breath as the city takes up the idea of
a domestic partner registry for gay and straight couples.
But passage is anything but assured in
Ohio, where voters passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in
the country four years ago.
Leaders say Cleveland's registry is
being modeled after similar legislation approved by voters in
Cleveland Heights, a small suburb east of Cleveland, in 2003, which
has already withstood a legal challenge.
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 might be a
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.
“I think the chances of it passing
are very good,” Cleveland Councilman Joe Santiago told On Top
Magazine in a telephone conversation from Orlando, Florida, where
he was attending the twice-yearly National League of Cities.
Openly gay Santiago, who has played an
important role in crafting the legislation, said that he expects lead
sponsor Councilman Joe Cimperman to introduce the legislation next
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.
Mayor Frank Jackson, who has endorsed
efforts to bring the Gay Games to Cleveland, said he “supports the