A new enthusiasm for gay domestic partner registries in states where constitutional amendments ban gay marriage appears to be gaining momentum as the new compromise.

On December 9, Cleveland city leaders approved a domestic partner registry for gay and straight couples, while the Phoenix City Council will look at the question at a Wednesday meeting.

In states like Arizona and Ohio, where voters have blessed constitutional amendments restricting marriage to heterosexual partners, gay activists are increasingly turning to non-binding domestic partner registries.

The registries lack the real muscle found in marriage or even civil unions – most benefits extended to couples are voluntary – but do offer a symbolic step in the right direction.

Sue Doerfer, executive director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland, told Cleveland's Plain Dealer that a registry gives couples a sense of legitimacy when seeking out rights and benefits.

Some gay activists believe registries can be used as a powerful educational tool.

“It is possible that domestic partnerships, civil unions and other recognition can be used to educate voters about the rights and benefits that have been stripped away from so many people because of those amendments,” Steve Ralls, director of communications for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), said in an email.

Registry backers in Phoenix point out that the registry is helpful in granting hospital visitation rights to gay and lesbian couples.

“It boils down to a basic human right, and as we enter this holiday season, the issue is even more pronounced,” openly gay Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot told the Arizona political news website azcentral.com.

“If you are sick or injured and lying in a hospital bed, you should have the right to have your significant other at your bedside,” he said.

In Florida, gay activists have also concluded that gay marriage is not in the cards for Floridians at this time, but continue to protest passage of Amendment 2, Florida's gay marriage ban.

“Our goal is to keep the issue of marriage equality alive,” said Lorna Bracewell, a spokeswoman for Impact Florida, the grassroots organization that protested Florida Governor Charlie Crist's wedding on Friday because they believe the governor was exercising the same right he supported denying to gay and lesbian couples.

Bracewell said her organization was planning a large demonstration in Tallahassee, the state capital, where they plan to ask legislators for domestic partnerships. “We're going to push for what we can get,” she told On Top Magazine.

Of course, it was not supposed to be like this. Domestic partner registries have limited force of law and, therefore, limited appeal. Most of the 70 cities and counties nationwide that began instituting the registries believed them to be just a stepping stone to civil unions or gay marriage.

But with passage of gay marriage bans in California, Florida and Arizona on Election Day, pragmatic gay activists sense registries might be a good compromise in such states. Thirty states prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying by defining marriage as a heterosexual union constitutionally.  Many have also restricted the practice by law.

An effort in Utah to introduce five pro-gay bills to the Legislature appears to be collecting steam. And a pair of those bills would create a domestic partner registry for gay and lesbian couples by repealing a part of Utah's constitutional amendment.

Equality Utah, the group behind the effort, said they had no plans to pursue gay marriage, which Mormon leaders say they cannot abide.

“We need to come back down and we need to think, 'OK, now that we are where we are, what is the way we move forward?'” openly gay Senator Scott McCoy, who will introduce the legislation in January, said. “And the way that we move forward is to channel that energy and that anger and that disappointment into constructive channels.”