Out In America
January 27, 2010
(West Palm Beach, Florida) Florida legislators were urged this afternoon to enact pro-family legislation creating a statewide domestic partnership registry. Once enacted, the legislation would provide unmarried couples many of the benefits provided by the state to married couples.
Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch addressed legislators at the final public hearing prior to the opening of the Florida legislature in March.
"Many couples choose not to marry so that they may preserve their social security, pension, and veterans benefits," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
"However marriage is not an option for gay and lesbian Floridians in committed relationships."
Nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive laws recognizing gay and lesbians relationships. Four states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont) and the District of Columbia provide full marriage equality. New Jersey recognized civil unions. Four additional states (California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have domestic partnership legislation.
While marriage equality for gay men and lesbians is denied by Florida's laws and constitution, gay couples may register their domestic partnerships in some parts of Florida.
"Thanks to the efforts of local organizations such as Save-Dade, the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida, and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, gay couples may register as domestic partners throughout Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, as well as in the city of Gainesville," said Hoch.
"Regardless of where our families make our homes, we should be accorded the same rights and benefits that other families take for granted," Hoch told legislators.
"Once the law is enacted statewide, domestic partners will be allowed to visit their partners in a hospital with the same authority as spouses with regard to health care decisions," said Hoch. "Domestic partners will be notified as family members in the event of an accident, and in the event of a partner's death, they will be empowered to make funeral decisions."
With legislators wary of the Florida's multi-billion dollar deficit, Hoch informed legislators that the legislation requires no expenditure of state funds for office space or personnel, since the paperwork will be done by the Clerks of the Circuit Courts who are charged with processing marriage licenses.
"Since fees are assessed to register and terminate domestic partnerships, the legislation will actually generate income for the state," said Hoch.
The domestic partnership legislation was co-introduced by state senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hallandale) and state representative Richard Steinberg (D-Miami Beach)