Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel filed a statewide bill on January 9 that would allow citizens of the state to enter into domestic partnerships.  State Bill 196, which is known as the Families First bill, offers a way for non-married as well as LGBT couples to be legally recognized.

As it stands currently in the State of Florida, atypical couples as well as non-married couples have no legal relationship.  Sobel’s bill would give same-sex couples and non-married couples the same benefits married couples receive, such as hospital visitation rights and other medical decision making responsibilities. 

Although some counties and cities in Florida do have domestic partnerships, statewide there is no policy that covers domestic partnerships.  Those counties that legally recognize same-sex couples are Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties.  Eleven cities in the state also offer some sort of legal recognition for domestic partners.

According to Sarah Warbelow, the State Legislative Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the state of Florida needs to step up to the plate and tackle the issue to ensure non-discrimination.  She reported  a poll by the Human Rights Campaign has shown that 80 percent of Americans support non-discrimination rights for the LGBT community.  However, only fifty percent support marriage equality for the LGBT community.

Mallory Wells, the Public Policy director of Equality Florida, stated equality is an American value, and added, “We’ve seen over the last few years a big increase in the way America recognizes same-sex relationships and LGBT citizens culturally.”

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry’s founder and president, explained that “until DOMA is overturned and Florida’s gay couples are allowed to marry,  statewide domestic partnership would be a good step to provide those important protections and responsibilities that are denied to those families because of the exclusion from marriage.”

Senator Sobel’s Families First bill would be a step in the right direction for equal rights for all of Florida’s LGBT citizens.

Original story can be found here.

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Last year, the vote to pass Orlando’s domestic partner registry was not only quick, but uneventful as well.  However, extending the registry to cover the whole county, turned into a tumultuous political battle.  On Friday when the vote was taken for the measure, neither the county commissioners nor Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs showed.  Nevertheless, the measure passed the commission by a 6-1 vote.  Comptroller Martha Haynie, who advocated for both registries, was the one who the official rollout was left to, and will be the person who will catalog all the relationships recorded by  the registry. 

Haynie stated that “we can acknowledge and celebrate that now anywhere in Orange County more families can be protected and respected when they face illnesses, accidents or end-of-life decisions.”  She also described the registry as an “important milestone in recognizing gay and lesbian families.”

One couple who has been a committed couple for more than two decades, became the first couple to sign up for Orange County’s new domestic partner registry.  For Phil Windsor and Gary Ashland, their relationship wasn’t legally recognized by the town of Edgewood where they reside, until Friday.  Now the couple will share some of the same rights that their married neighbors have always enjoyed.

Gary Ashland said that the registry is the “first step towards actual marriage,” with his partner, Phil Windsor stating that this is a “big step from when I was growing up in West Virginia.”

Couples who desire to register as domestic partners can register in person downtown at Orlando City Hall for $30.00, or they can print a form from the city or comptroller’s website, have it signed and notarized and send it in with a fee of $18.50 and they will officially be registered as a domestic partner couple in Orange County.

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