Frequently Asked Questions about Heights Families for Equality
WHO IS HFE?
Heights Families for Equality (HFE) is a coalition of Cleveland Heights residents working for basic civil rights for all. HFE is currently circulating petitions for a citizen initiative to create a domestic partner registry in our city.
A domestic partner registry creates a legal record of committed relationships. Registries make it easier for public, private and legal institutions to treat unmarried families (gay or straight) as what they are - families.
Over fifty cities around the country have created registries to make it easier for non-marital families to get equal:
- Hospital visitation rights
- Employment benefits
- Inheritance rights
WHAT IS A DOMESTIC PARTNER?
For the purposes of the registry ordinance, domestic partners must be adults who are not married to anyone else, and:
- Share a common residence,
- Agree to be in a relationship of mutual interdependence,
- File a notarized form under penalty of perjury and pay a fee.
WON'T THIS UNDERMINE MARRIAGE?
No. Marriage confers dozens of legal rights that are difficult for unmarried couples to obtain. A registry won't take away any of those rights from married couples.
Most people who are in long-term unmarried relationships have very good reasons not to enter into a marriage - whether financial, religious, or legal (gays and lesbians can't get married).
HFE believes these couples and their children are families, and we want to make it easier for institutions that want to treat them that way.
WHAT GOOD DOES A REGISTRY DO?
A registry helps families in three main ways.
First, a couple that registers gets a certificate from a government entity acknowledging their relationship. This certificate can be useful in dealing with institutions that don't have specific policies for dealing with non-marital families. It also makes it easier for couples to document their relationships in legal disputes, like court cases involving wills.
Second, registered couples are also entered into a list maintained by the city. A registry makes it easier for institutions that already want to treat these families as families to extend family-friendly policies to all families. It removes the administrative burden on places like hospitals, employers, and businesses to define and verify these family relationships. It makes it easier for institutions that want to treat these families as what they are - families.
Finally, a registry is a public recognition by a government entity that non-marital families exist, are important and are deserving of rights and benefits just like other families.
WHAT ABOUT OPPOSITE-SEX COUPLES?
Unmarried opposite-sex couples will be able to register in the domestic partner registry. Married couples are automatically domestic partners under our legislation.
Domestic partner registries around the country have proven to be very popular with widowed seniors. Registries provide a way to access certain rights and benefits without remarrying - when remarrying could imperil Social Security survivors benefits or a deceased spouse's employer pension.
HOW MUCH WILL THIS COST THE TAXPAYERS?
Nothing. The registry will be financed fully by the fee that couples pay to sign up.
The legislation directs the city manager to set the fee so that the registry breaks even. Other registries we know about charge $10-73; the most common amount seems to be about $50.