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August 10, 2012

Columbus passes domestic partner registry

Ordinance also mandates benefits for city workers’ partners

Columbus--Columbus City Council on July 30 approved the city’s domestic partner registry, which will take effect at the end of August.

Mayor Michael Coleman, council president Andy Gintther and councilor Zach Klein announced the registry in June, and it had its first hearing on July 26, before the development committee. Klein is the committee chair.

The registry will be open to same-sex and opposite-sex couples. To enlist on the registry, couples must file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a government-issued marriage license, even if it is not recognized by the state of Ohio. There will be a $50 fee, and the registry is open to non-residents of Columbus.

The ordinance, in addition to establishing the registry, also requires that the city’s director of human resources extends domestic partner benefits to city employees instead of simply authorizing him to, as was enacted in November 2010. Because of this change, the city cannot remove the benefits without a vote of city council.

The domestic partner registry does not carry with it any intrinsic benefits for residents, but it allows public- and private-sector employers a method to determine whether employees might qualify for domestic partner benefits, if they are offered.

 “The registry will help reduce the administrative burden on businesses and public institutions to define and certify the existence of a relationship,” noted council communications director John Ivanic.

Columbus is now the eighth city in Ohio with a domestic partner registry. The first was Cleveland Heights, where voters passed one in 2003. Following that, Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati, Yellow Springs and Athens passed registries, followed most recently by Dayton, whose registry opened June 1.

Mayor Coleman is part of the Mayors for Marriage Equality campaign, put forward by the national Freedom to Marry organization. The campaign was unveiled at the United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting in January in Washington, D.C., when Coleman’s name was accidentally put on the list. He was later added in the second wave of mayors to sign on.

In the first wave, Edward Kelley of Cleveland Heights was the first Ohio mayor to sign on, followed by David Berger of Lima. Then came Sara Drew of Stow, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, Canton’s William Healy, Frank Jackson in Cleveland, Gary Norton in East Cleveland, Lakewood’s Mike Summers, Charles Sammarone in Youngstown and Akron’s Don Plusquellic, along with Coleman.

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