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June 19, 2009

 

Cincinnati group may join foes of Cleveland registry

Sharonville, Ohio--Ohio’s leading anti-gay group says it will come to Cleveland to organize an effort to put the city’s new partner registry on a 2010 ballot--if local opponents invite them.

Citizens for Community Values vice president David Miller said he has talked to the group circulating petitions to repeal the registry, and they are ready to “help the people of Cleveland appeal to their government to redress grievances” if asked.

“We will stand behind them. We have a vested interest in any government or political subdivision abusing their power,” Miller said. He made the comment while in Columbus for a hearing on the Equal Housing and Employment Act.

Miller’s Cincinnati-area group is the Ohio affiliate of the anti-gay Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. It has been at the heart of nearly every anti-LGBT action in the state since 1993, including the 2004 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil union. Earlier, the group passed the so-called “defense of marriage act” which is now part of Ohio law.

Both measures were undertaken at the behest of the George W. Bush re-election campaign.

CCV also worked against Ohio’s first domestic partner registry in Cleveland Heights, passed in 2003. The registries in Cleveland and Toledo are nearly identical to it.

The group backed then-councilor Jimmie Hicks and former state school board member Charles Byrne in a suit against the Cleveland Heights registry, claiming it went against “Ohio’s ‘strong public policy’ in favor of marriages between one man and one woman and against marriages between persons of the same sex.”

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Robert T. Glickman upheld the registry in May, 2004, ruling that it didn’t break the home-rule law and also doesn’t confer any of the benefits of marriage.

Hicks and Byrne appealed the ruling a month later. In September, with the marriage ban amendment headed for the ballot, they attempted to halt the case until after the election so that they could add the measure’s second sentence to their arguments, if it passed.

The second sentence bars anything that “intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”

The Eighth District denied their motion and ordered the case to proceed.

Three days after the amendment passed, Hicks and Byrne tried again. They asked the court to suspend their case while they brought a new suit.

Cincinnati lawyer David Langdon, representing the two, argued that the purpose of their move to stay the case was “to promote judicial economy and preserve taxpayer resources.”

Langdon wrote the marriage ban amendment. It is widely believed that he added the second sentence specifically to void the Cleveland Heights registry. He has never denied this.

The Eighth District denied his motion, a week after the amendment passed. It later upheld Glickman’s analysis that because the registry is only a list, the DOMA law doesn’t apply.

After the Eighth District’s unanimous opinion in July 2005 that the registry is constitutional and an appropriate “act of self governance,” Langdon said he was going to sue again under the new constitutional amendment, but that never happened.

What did occur, though, was the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling in the Carswell case.

In Carswell, the high court held that the state’s domestic violence laws still applied to unmarried couples under the ban amendment. It also narrowed the amendment’s second sentence to include only marriage and civil unions.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote: “The second sentence of the amendment means the state cannot create or recognize a legal status for unmarried persons that bears all of the attributes of marriage--a marriage substitute.”

The key word is all of the attributes, not some of them.

Moyer reinforced this a couple of paragraphs later, saying, “It is clear that the purpose of Issue 1 [the amendment] was to prevent the state, either through legislative, executive, or judicial action, from creating or recognizing a legal status deemed to be the equivalent of a marriage of a man and a woman.”

Moyer’s example of what the court considers a “marriage substitute” is a civil union.

Last January, the justices declined to hear a child custody suit that sought to expand the amendment past the Carswell limits.

Now it looks like Langdon wants to try again.

Last month, he sent Cleveland Law Director Robert Triozzi a preliminary letter for filing a taxpayer action if Triozzi does not stop the city from enacting the registry. The letter begins the same process that launched Hicks’ futile suit against Cleveland Heights.

The registry opened for business on May 17 and now includes more than 100 couples.

Langdon is representing, along with the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Arizona, a group called Cleveland Taxpayers for the Ohio Constitution, and city taxpayer Dorothy McGuire.

In the letter, Langdon accuses the city of violating the Ohio Constitution with the registry.

To date, no suit has been filed, and no petitions to repeal it by voter initiative have been turned in.

 


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