Unmarried couples, gay and straight, in Pinellas County will be able to register as domestic partners following Tuesday's vote by county commissioners, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The legal recognition will give couples the right to visit each other in the emergency room, make health care decisions for each other in a crisis and, depending on their employers, share health insurance coverage, the Times reports. Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the registry, with Norm Roche casting the dissenting vote.
The Times story notes that residents of Gulfport, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, where domestic partnership registries are already in place, the planned $50 fee will be reduced. Those residents will only have to pay the difference between their cities' fees and the county's fee.
Jan and Denise Lowe were among the first couples to register under Gulfport's domestic partnership registry last June. On Tuesday, Jan Lowe attended the commission meeting and proudly spoke up.
"It made me feel good to get up there and tell the council that I was one of the second couples that was registered in all of Pinellas, because Gulfport was first to do it.
As great as it is to have a domestic partnership registry in Gulfport, we don't have any hospitals, on a countywide basis it means there are many more areas that we will have access to each other and we'll be recognized legally."
The law takes effect in 10 days, although officials said it will probably be about 90 days before they are ready to open registration for couples.
- Video: Couples Declare Domestic Partnership
- Video: Gulfport Mayor Signs Domestic Partnership Registry into Law
- Gulfport First in Pinellas County to Pass Domestic Partnership Registry
- New Domestic Partnership Registry Starts Accepting Couples
What's your take? Should domestic partners be granted rights that are now only granted to men and women who are married? Did Pinellas County make the right move? Post a comment below.