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Friday, June 27, 2008

Cincinnati Weighs Legal Definition Of Family Member: By Marriage, Blood Relative, Or 'Legal Contract'

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Adopted family members are covered in specific language outside the "legal contract" category. Those two words -- and questions about their meaning and significance as social policy -- have appeared as City Council moves to enact a rental subsidy ordinance that will financially assist households with a disabled member. The measure defines what constitues a family. Some are wondering if it might open the door to recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships, which are "legal contracts." Here's what Cincinnati says:

"The following definitions of family shall apply:
1. 2 or More Persons living together who are related by blood, marriage (including common-law marriages recognized under state law), adoption, or legal contract.
2. Disabled person.
3. Handicapped Person. Having a physical or mental impairment that (a) is expected to be of long continued and indefinite duration, (b) substantially impedes the person's ability to live independently, and (c) is of such a nature that such ability could be improved by more suitable housing conditions."

It is the clause "legal contract" in No. 1 that has made people wonder if a door is being opened to official recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships. The wording in the clause seems to take in a guardianship -- a judicial appointment created through legal process and a court order. But the clause defining a family does not specifically say guardianship. It appears worded as if intended to cover broader territory. There is more information about civil unions here, and additional discussion here.

The city's definition of a "family" is available in a June 25 document (page 2) that has been posted on City Hall's e-gov portal. It does not say anything about same-sex couples or relationships, but the sentiment that a family can be created by some kind of "legal contract" other than marriage does seem to point toward a progressive and inclusive interpretation.

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