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June 15. 2012

Columbus may get registry; Toledo benefits on hold

Columbus--Mayor Michael Coleman, council president Andy Ginther and city councilor Zach Klein announced the introduction of a domestic partner registry on June 8.

If it passes, Columbus will be the eighth Ohio city with such a registry. The first was Cleveland Heights, where voters passed one in 2003. That was followed by Cleveland, Toledo, Cincinnati, Yellow Springs and Athens. Dayton opened their registry on June 1.

The Columbus registry, like the others, would be open to non-married couples in a committed relationship. It would not carry any benefits intrinsically, but could be used to prove the relationship for the purposes of domestic partner benefits for municipal or private-sector employees, for hospital visitation and other things.

The legislation is still being drafted, and Ginther hopes to introduce it to City Council in July.

Coleman already joined the Mayors for Marriage Equality campaign, although he was in the second wave of Ohio mayors to do so, after a campaign of residents called on him to express his support. Edward Kelley of Cleveland Heights and David Berger of Lima were the first two Ohio mayors to join. Coleman was joined by Sara Drew of Stow, Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, William Healy of Canton, Cleveland’s Frank Jackson, East Cleveland’s Gary Norton, Mike Summers of Lakewood, Charles Sammarone of Youngstown and Don Plusquellic of Akron.

Mayor vetoes Toledo worker benefits

Two days earlier, Toledo mayor Mike Bell vetoed domestic partner benefits for city employees, a measure he had introduced. City council added an amendment to reopen the firefighter union’s contract negotiations, which Bell said overstepped the council’s powers.

He said, however, that he will reintroduce domestic partner benefit legislation later this month for fast-tracked passage, presumably pushing for the union contract renegotiation to be left out of the new version.

Toledo law director Adam Loukx said that the amendment reopening the firefighters’ contract exceeded council authority. Councilor D. Michael Collins, however, said that without renegotiating what the city pays into firefighters’ health benefits plans could deplete the union’s health care fund, since they would also have to cover domestic partner benefits for their employees. But given the traditionally low estimates of the overall numbers of people signing on for domestic partner benefits, it is unlikely many in the fire department would seek them.

With a new measure’s passage, Toledo would join seven other Ohio cities and counties with the benefits: Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland Heights and the counties of Cuyahoga, Franklin and Lucas, where Toledo is located.




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