Is The Sigh of Relief in Cleveland … Temporary?

Gays looking for equal rights always seem to be butting heads with religious organizations. In Cleveland, it was no different. Gay men and women in Cleveland trying to add their names to a non-binding domestic partner registry — passed by the city council late last year — were nearly rebuffed by a group of ministers trying to dismantle it. But was there something to celebrate in the end?

Yes!

The registry, which is a tiny step toward providing gay couples the same rights and benefits as their straight counterparts, lacks any real enforcement — following its guidelines is strictly voluntary for, say, employers. But back in December, gay rights organizers were pleased with even getting that far, given Ohio’s staunch anti-gay marriage position cemented four years ago.

But then came more opposition … and a reprieve … and a promise for a renewed fight to eliminate the registry.

A group of ministers in Cleveland have fallen short in their effort to abort a gay partner registry from taking effect, but say they are resolved to ending it.

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 on Wednesday.

Cleveland city leaders approved the registry at a Monday December 8 session by a 13-7 vote.

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The failure to collect about 11,000 signatures before the January 5 deadline means the registry will take effect. Matthews said only a few thousand signatures were collected, and blamed the loss on the holiday time frame. But the ministers said they will pursue a second course of action to end the registry.

The “ordinance by initiative” option laid out by the city charter allows the group to submit legislation directly to council leaders. It requires only 5,000 signatures and there are no time limits. If the council refuses to vote against its own measure, then the issue would go before the voters.

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.

Openly gay Councilman Joe Santiago who backed the creation of the registry questioned the resolve of the ministers, saying he was uncertain how well organized the group was.

“There are activists out there that are just vehemently against such measures,” Santiago told ‘On Top Magazine’. “They have a perception that this is part of a gay agenda, the start of a process to allow for gay marriage. And that’s just not true. … The registry benefits both gay and straight couples.”

The ministers say they oppose the registry on religious grounds.

“That lifestyle goes against God,” Matthews told a ‘Plain Dealer’reporter. [OnTopMag]