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November 4, 2011

Cuyahoga puts off partner benefit vote

Cleveland--The Cuyahoga County Council on October 25 put off a vote on proposed domestic partner benefits for county employees, sending it back to committee at the behest of the committee chair and the sponsor.

The measure was slated for its second vote, the eleventh item on the agenda. When it came up, however, council president C. Ellen Connally announced that Human Resources, Appointments and Equity Committee chair Yvonne Conwell and council vice-president Sunny Simon had asked that it be sent back to the committee for more hearings, which will be announced on the committee website.

At the head of the meeting, four people spoke out against extending health insurance benefits to domestic partners of city employees. At least one cited propaganda from Citizens for Community Values, an anti-gay organization in the Cincinnati suburbs.

Doris Durica used the same arguments she made two years ago during the city of Cleveland’s deliberations over passing a domestic partner registry, saying that the legislation was “ripe for fraud,” that she could register as a domestic partner with a friend of hers and claim benefits while providing little proof of a relationship, and called domestic partnerships “counterfeit family,” akin to counterfeit money.

During the Cleveland city council meetings, she handed out photocopied dollar bills, using the same “counterfeit” claims.

She was followed by another speaker who cited a single instance of a lesbian mother of an adopted child shaming her daughter in public as an example of the unfitness of gay and lesbian people to be parents, then freted that the domestic partner benefits would be followed by same-sex couples being allowed to jointly adopt.

Gay people can already adopt in Ohio; they simply cannot do so as a couple, which deprives the child of the stability of having both members of the couple listed as their parents.

Ilona Frank then made an economic argument against the benefits, which would cost a small fraction at most of what benefits for married couples cost. She cited CCV and Bowling Green’s equality ordinances, omitting that voters upheld the measures last year.

The final speaker on the topic, William Brownley, quoted from the state’s anti-marriage constitutional amendment and its provisions barring the recognition of statuses designed to substantially duplicate the rights and benefits of marriage.

However, that issue already has made it through the courts in Ohio, with suits against domestic partner benefits in public universities being dismissed, and the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the amendment specifies “all of the attributes of marriage,” not some of them. The chief justice noted that this includes only marriage and civil unions.

That ruling came in a domestic violence case in which an unmarried abuser argued unsuccessfully that he should be exempt from domestic violence laws because they create a spousal relationship where the amendment would prohibit it.

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