Cleveland begins offering gay and
lesbian couples the option of registering as domestic partners today.
In a state that has banned marriage and
civil unions for gay couples, the moment is historic; only two other
cities in Ohio – Cleveland Heights and Toledo – offer such
Gay rights advocates plan to celebrate
with a rally on the steps of City Hall.
But the celebration will be tempered by
the fact that Cleveland's registry is hollow: it offers no benefits
whatsoever. Ohio passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in the
country five 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. Additionally, opponents have declared
war on the legislation.
Inside City Hall, Rev. C. Jay Matthews,
who heads a group of mostly black ministers opposed to the registry,
has been invited to lead a prayer group.
The ministers are pushing for repeal of
the registry. An attempt to stop the registry from taking effect
failed after the group fell short of collecting the 11,000 signatures
needed before the January 5 deadline. After the prayer service they
plan to march to Public Square to demonstrate against the registry.
The ministers say they oppose the
registry on religious grounds. “That lifestyle goes against God,”
Matthews told a Plain Dealer reporter.