Hillsborough rejects domestic partner registry

01/24/13 Seán Kinane
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Today the Hillsborough County Commission rejected the issue of a domestic partnership registry where non-married couples can get a few of the rights that married couples have.

Four Commissioners opposed the idea: Al Higginbotham, Ken Hagan, Victor Crist and Sandra Murman.

Jennifer Gordon is the legislative assistant for Florida Representative Mark Danish and during public comment this morning read a letter of support from the Tampa Democrat.

"It is with great honor and pride that I express my support for the domestic partnership registry for Hillsborough County. I encourage the Hillsborough County Commission to support this basic step towards equality. I make this request on behalf of my constituents who demand equality for LGBT brothers and sisters. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution demands that every person receives equal protection under the law. This measure will expand many legal rights to LGBT couples and will allow them the dignities that all loving committed couples should be afforded. No person should ever be treated as second citizens because of who he or she loves."

Some of those rights include visitation in the event a partner is hospitalized and the right to make educational decisions for a partner’s children.

Terry Kemple is president of the conservative Community Issues Council. He was active to get an amendment added to Florida’s constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and spoke out in opposition to a domestic partner registry.

"This is an undermining, if you will, of the intent, the spirit of the marriage amendment which over 60 percent of the people in the unincorporated county voted for. It establishes governmental recognition of same sex unions. And those over 60 percent who voted for that marriage amendment voted to make sure that that governmental recognition extended to one man one woman unions."

Also opposing the domestic partner registry was Todd Marks who owns Westchase Law. He says there are other legal avenues for people to recognize a partner.

"Florida statutes chapter 65 provides for health care surrogates opportunities. Chapter 497 for hospital visitation, funeral and burial decisions in Florida. Chapter 744 allows for the preneed guardianship to be determined. Interestingly enough, Tampa's version of the DPR essentially incorporates these statutes and so it's a redundancy and so that begs the question if on the face of the law if these needs are already met under existing law what's the unstated goal. The unstated goal, I believe, is that it allows for activist judges to further redefine marriage."

But Zeke Freed supports a registry for domestic partners because he’s been in a situation where legal recognition would have have helped his partner of 34 years.

"I was in a horrific car wreck and when my partner showed up at the hospital there was confusion so far as what they would telll him and what they wouldn't tell him. He knew my decisions. He knew what I wanted. Yes, Mr. Kemple is right. You can go out and get an attorney and pay 4 or $5,000 and have all of this documentation done, however you can also show up at a hospital as happened in Miami with a gay couple on vacation where they denied the right of the partner with her two children to see her partner who passed away alone."

During public comment Thursday morning 11 people spoke in favor of the registry and four were opposed.

Here's WMNF's full coverage of domestic partnership issues

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