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May 4. 2012

Three Ohio cities look at partner measures

Cincinnati and Toledo consider public worker benefits, Dayton mulls a registry

Cincinnati--Three Ohio cities are moving forward on domestic partner issues, with two examining benefits for the domestic partners of city employees and the third looking to follow other cities with a domestic partner registry.

Chris Seelbach, the openly gay city councilor in Cincinnati and one of the youngest in the city’s history, sent out an April 30 email telling supporters that the council finance committee voted 8 to 0 with one abstention to give across-the-board health, dental and vision benefits, regardless of the sexual orientation. All three of the “young bucks” on council, elected last November, voted in favor--Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Seelbach.

The final vote was expected on May 2, after press time.

Council in Toledo is also considering a proposal to extend benefits to the domestic partners of city employees, similar to those given to married spouses. The measure was introduced by Mayor Mike Bell at the urging of Equality Toledo and other community advocates.

“What we’re trying to do is bring our city, from the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what’s happening nationally,” he told the Toledo Blade. “We’re not the first train pulling out of the station here, we’re actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio.”

Toledo already has a domestic partner registry, introduced in 2007, and its surrounding Lucas County offers benefits to county employees, as do Cuyahoga County, Columbus, Cleveland and a number of other municipalities across the state.

The measure was being introduced in council on May 1.

The following day, Dayton commissioners may vote on an ordinance to add them to a growing list of Ohio cities with domestic partner registries. While the registry, much like the prototypical one approved by voters in Cleveland Heights, would not carry any benefits in itself, businesses could use registration as proof of a relationship for offering benefits like those proposed in Cincinnati and Toledo.

The ordinance had a first reading at the April 25 commission meeting, and the May 2 meeting is the earliest opportunity a vote on it could be held.

Five other municipalities have domestic partner registries: Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Toledo, Yellow Springs and Athens. Cleveland Heights’ registry, the first in the state, was challenged in court, under the assumption by anti-gay activists that it violated the state’s 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled, however, that it was legal, and did not come nearly close enough to approximating marriage to run afoul of the amendment.

Related stories

Cincinnati ready to pass city worker partner benefits  February 10, 2012

Cuyahoga council passes domestic partner benefits  February 24, 2012

Partners added to Cleveland health plan  July 29, 2011

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