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
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
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
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.”