Beliefnet News

CLEVELAND (RNS) A group of Cleveland pastors who tried to trigger a referendum to overturn the city’s domestic-partner registry have come up short in their bid for signatures.
The group, led by the Rev. C. Jay Matthews of Mount Sinai Baptist Church, needed to submit about 11,000 signatures by Wednesday (Jan. 7) to put the issue to a citywide vote.
Matthews said only a few thousand signatures were collected. He blamed the failure on a narrow time frame over the holidays.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” he said.
Religious leaders now will focus on a maneuver known as an `ordinance by initiative.’ It requires 5,000 signatures and allows petitioners to submit legislation to repeal the registry. That legislation could be placed before voters if the City Council does not pass it.
In December, the City Council voted 13-7 to create a registry for same- and opposite-sex couples. Supporters said the move would cultivate a gay-friendly image for Cleveland and perhaps help domestic partners obtain benefits, such as health care, typically reserved for married couples.
Matthews’ supporters, however, oppose the registry as a sneaky way for city lawmakers to circumvent a 2004 state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriages and civil unions in Ohio.
The registry, which is set to debut in three months, would not guarantee any rights or mean a couple is legally married. Legal challenges to a similar registry in suburban Cleveland Heights have failed.
Matthews said his group circulated petitions for both the referendum and the ordinance by initiative and is getting close to 5,000 signatures for the initiative. He said he hopes to submit the legislation by April.
Sue Doerfer, head of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Greater Cleveland, said activists have launched a campaign to knock on doors to promote the registry.
“People have very strong feelings about same-sex marriage,” Doerfer said. “This is not marriage. I think there is a lot of misinformation out there.”
By Henry J. Gomez
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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