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September 7, 2012

Columbus opens Ohio’s seventh domestic partner registry

Columbus--The state’s seventh domestic partner registry opened on August 29, with a half-dozen couples registering and taking part in a press conference that morning.

Like other domestic partner registries across the state, it brings no intrinsic benefits, but Columbus City Council communications director John Ivanic said, “The registry will help reduce the administrative burden on businesses and public institutions to define and certify the existence of a relationship.”

Employees of a company that offers domestic partner insurance benefits could be shown the registration as proof of eligibility for the benefits. The same could hold true for state universities or municipalities that offer such insurance policies.

The ordinance establishing the registry, passed by city council on July 30, also requires the director of human resources for Columbus to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees. An ordinance enacted in November 2010 authorized the extension of benefits, but did not make them mandatory. The change also means that the benefits cannot be removed without city council voting to do so.

To sign up for Columbus’ domestic partner registry, neither member of the couple can be married to another person. The two must be at least 18 years old, mentally competent, and show financial interdependence. There is a $50 fee for the registry.

Cleveland Heights was the first Ohio city to pass a domestic partner registry, in 2003. It is the only one in the nation created by a voter initiative. After that, councils in Cleveland, Toledo, Yellow Springs and Athens passed registries, followed by Dayton, whose registry opened June 1.

Columbus’ domestic partner registry was pushed by Mayor Michael Coleman, council president Andy Ginther and councilor Zach Klein, who announced it in June. It is open to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Couples who are married to each other can register by showing a government-issued marriage license, even if it is not recognized by the state of Ohio. This would include same-sex couples married in states or countries that allow full same-sex marriage.

Mayor Coleman signed on to 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 the mayors of Lima, Stow, Cincinnati, Canton, Cleveland, East Cleveland, Lakewood, Youngstown and Akron, along with Coleman.

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