A group of ministers is leading an
effort to repeal Cleveland's recently passed gay domestic partner
registry, reports Cleveland daily The Plain Dealer.
United Pastors in Mission, a group of
mostly black ministers led by president Rev. C. Jay Matthews of the
Mount Sinai Baptist Church and director Rev. Marvin McMickle of
Antioch Baptist Church, made the announcement at a Tuesday press
conference at Matthews' church.
Cleveland city leaders approved the
registry at a Monday December 8 session by a 13-7 vote.
All of the seven lawmakers who voted
against the measure were black. Ward 1 councilman Terrell Pruitt
admitted he was pressured to vote against the registry: “I couldn't
risk having the ministers, who don't have all the facts, on the
pulpits preaching against me on Sunday.”
Cleveland's domestic partner registry
allows gay and straight couples to seek recognition of their union
from the city. Ohio passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in
the country four years ago. To ensure that the registry does not run
afoul of the state's prohibition it lacks any force of law and
guarantees no protections whatsoever. Any benefits given to couples
would be strictly voluntary.
Over 70 cities and counties nationwide
offer gay domestic partner registries. Lawmakers in the Mormon
stronghold of Utah will take up the question next month.
Despite its limited use, the ministers
vowed to fight against it, calling its passage by city leaders an
attempt to circumvent the state's gay marriage ban.
“It should be handled by the state of
Ohio and, unfortunately, our city is once again out of step with the
reality of the challenges that are before us,” Matthews said.
“That lifestyle goes against God,”
Matthews told a Plain Dealer reporter.
The group has 40 days to organize a
referendum that would stop the registry from taking effect. It
requires 10,228 signatures (10% of voters) and would trigger a
special election that would decide its fate.
A second option offered by the city's
charter requires only 5,000 signatures and is not subject to the
40-day rule, but would allow the registry to take effect. The
“ordinance by initiative” option allows the group to submit
legislation directly to council leaders. But it seems unlikely the
council would vote to repeal their own measure; in that case, the
group could put the issue on the ballot.
The ministers say the measure was
rushed in an attempt to choke off debate.
Councilman Joe Cimperman, who sponsored
the measure, disagreed, saying there was ample opportunity for
“We believe that council acted for a
very focused group of citizens by passing this law. We are going to
appeal to a very focused group of citizens who do not want to give
this definition of family to our children,” Matthews said.