Domestic Partnership Passes Unanimously
The St. Petersburg City Council voted to approve a domestic partnership registry.
Couples in and outside the city of St. Petersburg will now be able to register as domestic partners, after the City Council voted 8-0 today to create a domestic partnership registry.
The registry gives committed couples, gay or straight, most of the same rights as heterosexual married couples in Florida. The City Council also approved last-minute changes to the ordinance that let:
- Couples that are not residents register;
- Married couples who wed in another state to register as domestic partners in St. Petersburg, if the state of Florida does not recognize their marriage.
Council member Steve Kornell said the latter change was important to gay couples, since the state of Florida will not recognize their marriages.
"I don’t think these are major changes, but I think they are important changes," Kornell said.
Nadine Smith, who was representing Equality Florida, said that passing the ordinance sends the right message to the state of Florida. Smith discussed her own challenges as a lesbian who married in Vermont but resides in Florida.
"I think the need for this is clear today," Smith said. "I’m legally married in the state of Vermont, but when we cross back into our home state we are legally strangers to one another."
There were some initial concerns from a few members of the Council about the last-minute additions, not because of their content but because the process was changed.
After a 10-minute recess the Council reviewed the additions, which were added to the original ordinance to create the registry.
"I completely understand the process and concerns, I just find the ironic shame of this, our Constitution said all people are created equal," Council member Charlie Gerdes said. "You're (either) equal or you’re not equal. It's a shame we have to pass an ordinance (to) say what equal is."
Assistant City Attorney Jeannine Williams said the ordinance grant six rights:
- Health-care visitations.
- Health-care decision should a partner become incapacitated.
- Funeral/Burial decisions.
- Become part of required notifications in emergency situations
- Declared “pre-need” guardian.
- Education rights and decisions of partner’s dependent, as long as no objection from the biological parent.
Couples wishing to register will be directed to the City Clerk's Office. The hours, the fees and days the registry will operate have not been determined yet. The law goes into effect June 15. From there, the clerk will then have 90 days to create a registry.
The ordinance received near unanimous support from those who spoke at Thursday's open forum.
"Local policy really does have a direct impact on everybody’s lives," said Darden Rice, speaking in favor of the registry creation. "What it means, is to feel wholly welcome in our community, not as a second-class citizen."
Other new amendments to the ordinance include:
- All Rights, privileges and benefits extended to registered domestic partnerships will also be extended to domestic partnerships registered in other jurisdictions. If any conflict occurs between jurisdictions, the city code provisions will govern in the city.
- Upon termination of a registered domestic partnership, a certificate of termination will be issued to each partner.
- Align the exercise of rights of a domestic partner to participate in the education of a dependent of the domestic partnership with policies and procedures of the Pinellas County School District. Florida Statutes, the city said, define the term "parent" broadly and often applies to adults who are not the biological parent.
- Nothing in the ordinance shall be construed as creating any third-party rights or actions or construed as imposing any liability upon a domestic partner for any expenses of his or her domestic partner.
Several residents from Gulfport, which was the first city in Pinellas County to create a registry, came to voice their support.
Gulfport City Councilor Barbara Banno said that creating the ordinance will help give Gulfport residents who come to St. Pete for medical care more rights.
"Where the city of Gulfport is a neighboring city, by you adding this section, specifically hospitalization, is critical for residents of the city of Gulfport," said Banno in regards to St. Pete allowing other city's registries to be recognized within city limits.
Editor's note: To view the ordinance click on the PDF below the picture of City Hall. The amendments added today regarding citizenship requirements and married couples additions are not in the PDF.