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 debate.

“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.