It can be seen from the analyses in this Article that ordinances which grant domestic partnership benefits and/or civil rights to gays and lesbians will probably face a complex gambit of legal challenges under state law, federal law, and both State and U.S. Constitutions. Current law and current common practice in the State, however, indicates that municipalities probably have almost unfettered power to pass ordinances that either grant protection or deny protection to gays and lesbians in the area of employment and housing discrimination within the municipalities jurisdiction. The situation is not as clear when it comes to domestic partnership benefits. It is likely that under current law, an ordinance granting domestic partnership benefits to employees of a municipality would be upheld in court. The challenge would be whether the ordinance could withstand the political pressure to which it would most certainly endure. The recent failure of Lakewood to pass just such an ordinance is an example of how divisive and problematic such an issue is. If in fact, a municipality did pass such an ordinance, there would be significant pressure placed on the state legislature to preempt that ordinance and others like it. While recent Ohio Supreme Court decisions seem to indicate that the ordinance may withstand such a challenge the experience of the litigation in Rocky River demonstrates that the politics of the issue may well be more important than any legal analysis. Finally, it is relatively clear that ordinances requiring contractors to provide domestic partnership benefits to their employees as a condition of contracting with the municipality have limited validity under federal law. The ordinance in San Francisco, while still standing, has limited impact.
Mark A. Tumeo, Civil Rights for Gays and Lesbians and Domestic Partner Benefits: How Far Could an Ohio Municipality Go, 50 Clev. St. L. Rev. 165 (2002-2003)