The threat of rain held off Thursday as Cleveland city leaders offered a warm welcome to gay and lesbian couples arriving at City Hall on the opening day of its domestic partner registry.

But a larger threat loomed in the email box of Cleveland Director of Law Robert J. Triozzi.

Gay rights foes had sent Triozzi a strongly worded letter asking the city to end the registry and called it “unconstitutional.”

“The City's registry violates Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution, which prohibits a municipality from creating or recognizing a legal status for a relationship of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage,” lawyers for the Christian conservative Alliance Defense Fund said.

“The purpose of this letter is to request that your office … [seek] an injunction that would enjoin the City from the further abuse of its corporate powers entailed by the passage and enforced operation of the domestic partnership registry in violation of the Ohio Constitution.”

Sixty-four couples, mostly gay or lesbian, had registered for Cleveland's partner registry by 2PM Thursday, openly gay Councilman Joe Santiago told On Top Magazine.

Registering with the city is mostly a symbolic act. Registered couples receive no guaranteed benefits or protections; any benefits gained would be strictly voluntary. It carries no force of law.

The ADF says it represents Cleveland Taxpayers for the Ohio Constitution and Dorothy McGuire, a Cleveland taxpayer.

Ohio voters approved one of the toughest gay marriage bans in the country by a large margin five years ago. Approval of the registry in December drew condemnation and promises of repeal from a group of mostly black ministers headed by Rev. C. Jay Matthews. But their threat appeared diminished after the group failed to secure the necessary signatures to stop the registry from taking effect and missed a March deadline for the November ballot. The ministers did pray inside the council chamber but an expected protest failed to materialize.

Two other Ohio cities offer a domestic partner registry: Cleveland Heights and Toledo. City leaders in Cleveland Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, successfully rebuffed a legal challenge in 2004, but that fight was not based on the registry's constitutionality.