The Associated Press
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio - Residents in this Cleveland suburb could become the first in the nation to vote on letting gay couples legally document their relationships.
Heights Families for Equality, a group formed last year to support gay rights, announced Sunday a drive to create a citywide "domestic partner" registry.
"My wife and I, like all married couples, can take for granted legal protections that are difficult or impossible for unmarried couples of obtain," David Caldwell, the group's spokesman said Sunday. The registry would give gay and heterosexual unmarried partners a legal record saying they have committed to each other.
Couples could use the document in attempts to share employment benefits or inherit property. The registry would not be binding on courts, governments, hospitals or private companies, but many such registries have been accepted elsewhere.
Across the nation, 61 registries have been created by municipal councils or state legislatures, but not by voters, said Lorri Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The drive comes as the Legislature is poised to ban same-sex marriages or recognition of gay relationships.
"Defense of Marriage Act" bills have been adopted by Congress and in dozens of states. The bills define a marriage as a union of a man and a woman and preclude governments from recognizing gay unions. The Ohio House approved such a bill in November 68-29, but it died because the Senate did not vote on it. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said he would reintroduce the bill.
An Ohio defense-of-marriage law and a Cleveland Heights registry might be irreconcilable. If challenged, the city might be able to defend itself on home-rule grounds.
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