August 23, 2014

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Oberlin Council approves domestic partner registry

OBERLIN — Oberlin City Council has passed legislation to create a domestic registry for unmarried partners.

The new law passed unanimously Monday night and will go into effect in 30 days.

The registry was designed to help domestic partners with issues such as hospital visitation, but will have no legal sway over those hospitals, employers and insurance companies, according to Sharon Fairchild-Soucy, vice president of Council.

Oberlin Schools has offered benefits to domestic partners for at least 15 years, according to Superintendent John Schroth.

The idea of a domestic registry was brought to Council by the city’s Human Relations Commission, according to Fairchild-Soucy. She said Oberlin has a long history of “being on the right side of a moral issue.”

Toledo passed a law calling for a domestic registry in 2007, and the cost of the certificate is $25, according to Council Clerk Jerry Dendinger. There are 184 partnerships registered with the city, he said.

And on June 19, Toledo Council agreed to extend health care benefits to domestic partners of city employees, he said. The vote was 8-4, with all of the Democrats voting yes and the three Republicans and one independent member of Council voting no, he said.

Fairchild-Soucy said the Oberlin city administration is working on rules such as how much it will cost to register a domestic partnership. Like Toledo, the city plans to issue a certificate, she said.

The Oberlin law defines domestic partnership as the nonmarital intimate relationship of two adults of the same or different sex.

Both individuals must file a declaration of domestic partnership with the city affirming that they meet all of the following qualifications:

  • Both share a common residence.
  • Both affirm that they have an intimate relationship and share responsibility for each other’s common welfare.
  • Neither is married to any third party.
  • Neither is part of an existing domestic partnership with any third party.
  • Each is 18 years of age or older.
  • They are not related to one another by blood.

Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg said the city has not fully evaluated offering benefits to domestic partners, although he said at some point in the future domestic partner benefits may be important for the city to offer as a tool to attract and retain employees.

It has not come up in recent negotiations, he said.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.