Today is the first time Cleveland’s gay couples can register their relationships with the government, albeit the local city government, and without actually receiving much, if anything, in return. Heteros are invited to sign up as well, but the database of names thus far has no mandatory impact. It does not change the tax code, it does not grant hospital visitation rights, nor does it do anything about bequeathing estates or sharing health care benefits. But protesters are still lined up, mostly ministers participating in something called the National Day of Prayer. (The registry’s list of supporters also includes members of faith communities.) So what does this registry do?
Since the city council approved the registry in December, advocates have called it one small step toward recognizing gay marriage. That’s also the argument conservative opponents are making.
But there are no binding terms here. Rather, for a $55 fee per couple, the registry provides a foundation for unmarried couples who live together to declare some officialese to their relationship, and allows hospitals, employers, service providers and other organizations to have a starting point if they choose to grant privileges usually reserved for married heteros.
Many folks saw the registry as an attempt to show the city, even with one of the fastest crumbling real estate markets, is a proper destination. Particularly for things like the Gay Games, which Cleveland wants to host for all the tax revenue it brings in. In the meantime, the registry is serving one great purpose: bringing together loving families in celebration.