Links of interest on another page: 2002 CH Domestic Partnership Benefits Ordinance in the News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2003
David Caldwell, (216) 965-3690
ELECTIONS BOARD: CLEVELAND HEIGHTS DOMESTIC PARTNER REGISTRY HAS 4,922 VALID SIGNATURES
Heights Voters One Step Closer To Historic November Election
Next: Clerk Certifies Gay-Rights Initiative To Council At July 7 Meeting
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OHIO - Heights Families for Equality (HFE) announced today that the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has determined that 4,922 - over 1,300 more than needed - of the signatures submitted to create a domestic partner registry are valid signatures.
The city charter requires that, to certify an initiative, petitioners must submit signatures amounting to 10% of the number of registered voters at the time of the last City Council elections. The Board has notified HFE in writing that Cleveland Heights had 35,699 registered voters at the time of the November 2001 elections. Thus, 3,570 valid signatures are required to certify the initiative.
Upon ascertaining that there are sufficient signatures, the clerk of council is required to certify to Council, at its next regular meeting, that a petition signed by the required number of voters has been filed.
The next regular meeting of Cleveland Heights City Council is July 7 at 7:30 PM, at Cleveland Heights City Hall in Severance Town Center, on the corner of Mayfield Road and South Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights.
HFE: 7,000 one-on-one conversations during signature drive; more to come
HFE volunteers talked with over 7,000 voters during the three-month signature drive. Most voters were reached in their homes - by knocking on their doors. Others were asked as they voted during the May primary election, and still others were approached in busy public places. HFE volunteers described the domestic partner registry proposal to voters and asked whether voters supported it. After discussing the issue, voters were invited to sign the petition to help place the proposal on the ballot.
"The outpouring of support we've received for this proposal has been stunning," said HFE's David Caldwell. "Our neighbors have made this the first voter-initiated proposal in Cleveland Heights in twenty years. Hundreds of volunteers have spent over a thousand hours identifying thousands of voters who want this legislation to pass. We've turned in enough valid signatures to place this proposal on the ballot. But even more importantly, we're going to win. We've identified over half the base of supporters we'll need to pass this legislation in November."
"We're doing this work the right way," said Caldwell. "We're having clear, honest conversations - person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor. When we've talked with voters, we've seen 2-to-1 support across the city, and we're tied or ahead in every single neighborhood in Cleveland Heights. And those conversations aren't going to stop. We're going to keep talking with a broad array of public officials, opinion leaders, and - most importantly - individual voters."
"Our community is making a historic decision - together - about whether to value and protect all of our families - including gay and lesbian families," added Caldwell. "Elections are how democracies make decisions, and we're going to engage every voter in this process, and work as hard as we can to earn every neighbor's vote. We're over halfway there - but we're not going to take a single vote for granted. We don't want any voter to feel like someone else made this decision; we want everyone to have a say."
Bid to create Ohio's first registry
The registry would be the first of its kind in Ohio, and the first in the nation to be created by a ballot initiative.
A domestic partner registry allows a committed couple to create a legal record of their relationship.
"My wife and I, like all married couples, can take for granted legal protections that are difficult or impossible for unmarried couples to obtain," said Caldwell. "Gay and lesbian couples don't have the option of getting married to safeguard their rights, so even the most fundamental rights - like the right to visit an ailing partner in a hospital, or the right of partners to inherit from each other if one dies - can be denied to them at life's most painful moments."
Around the country, over fifty local governments have begun to address some of the challenges facing unmarried partners by creating registries in which two committed adults can sign up for a fee, and declare that they share a life together. Communities as diverse as St. Louis, New Orleans, Key West, and Portland, Maine have created registries.
Registries benefit families, institutions
Domestic partner registries make it easier for institutions to establish clear policies for dealing with nonmarital families. The establishment of a registry gives those institutions an easy way to provide rights and benefits to domestic partners without having to go through the administrative hassles of identifying and verifying domestic partner relationships.
"Domestic partner registries provide a framework for public, private, and legal institutions that want to treat these families as families," added Caldwell. "Employers that want to provide domestic partner benefits or equal access to pensions and survivor benefits, hospitals that want to provide visitation rights, and schools that want to allow a partner to participate in a child's education can use registries to make it easier to grant those benefits in a way that's clear and fair for everyone. Courts considering wills, child custody and support agreements, or other legal arrangements between partners can use registries to help establish that domestic partner relationships exist."
Registry not just for gays and lesbians; seniors often benefit
Partners in gay and lesbian relationships are not the only beneficiaries of domestic partner registries. Many seniors live in committed nonmarital relationships, and registries around the country have proven to be very popular with retired couples.
"Retirees who are committed to a partner often can't afford to get married, for fear of losing Social Security survivors benefits or employer pensions," said HFE's Kay Heylman. "Registering these partnerships can give institutions like hospitals and other health care facilities a way to remove unnecessary barriers for people in these loving relationships." Mark Beach, a spokesperson for the California AARP, which supported that state's registry law, added that registries can also help with legal issues such as wills or finances. "It's a basic civil-rights issue," he said. "It's as simple as that."
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Heights Families for Equality is a coalition of gay and non-gay residents working to promote access to basic rights for all. Contributions may be made online at the group's web site, or sent to Heights Families for Equality, P.O. Box 181367, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio , is a racially diverse middle-class suburb of Cleveland with 50,750 residents. It is located about twenty minutes from downtown Cleveland and very close to University Circle, Cleveland's cultural center. According to its visioning report, the city &ldquoattracts a rich blend of diverse, interesting and talented people.&rdquo
Domestic Partner Registry
(Links will open in a new browser window.)
Council sends registry issue to ballot Gay People's Chronicle, August 8, 2003
Domestic partner registry goes to vote in Cleveland Heights Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 5, 2003
Cleveland Heights partner registry moves to council Gay People's Chronicle, July 11, 2003
Domestic-partner registry issue lands on council agenda Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 6, 2003
Partner registry has enough signatures to go on ballot Gay People's Chronicle, July 4, 2003
Petitions are in for partner registry Gay People's Chronicle, June 27, 2003
Partner registry closer to ballot Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 24, 2003
Domestic Partner Registry Could Be On November Ballot Ohio News Network, June 23, 2003
Group Lobbies For Same-Sex Registry: 5,700 Signatures Filed NewsNet5.com, June 23, 2003
City debates domestic-partner registry Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 2003
Signatures add up for registry and Article 12 repeal Gay People's Chronicle, May, 9 2003
Partner registry backers begin petition drive Gay People's Chronicle, March 14, 2003
Petitions seek Ohio's first partner registry Gay People's Chronicle, February 28, 2003
Gay-rights group to push partners registry for ballot Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 23, 2003
Group Wants Registry For 'Domestic Partners' NewsNet5.com, February 23, 2003
Group seeks to create registry for 'domestic partners' The Beacon Journal, February 23, 2003
Group Wants To Create 'Domestic Partner' Registry Ohio News Network, February 23, 2003
Eugene Starts Couples Sign-Up, Human Rights Campaign Foundation