The domestic partnership registry is one vote away from becoming reality for unmarried couples in Gulfport.
The legal recognition at the local level would grant unmarried couples rights similar to that of a married couples when making education choices for children, emergency medical decisions, end-of-life choices and funeral arrangements.
City Council voted 4 - 1 during first reading of the ordinance Tuesday night with Councilor Dan Liedtke casting the only no vote.
Liedtke expressed concerns over whether or not other municipalities will recognize a local registry.
"I want to know, how do we minimize the symbolism from the equation and move onto something that has weight," Liedtke said.
He requested that a power of attorney and health care surrogate be added as a requirement in the application process.
"Without the legal documents to back up the registry, then this ordinance remains symbolic and carries no weight outside of Gulfport and carries little weight in Gulfport. If we are the county or state level discussing the registry, you can do without the documents," he said.
Councilor Barbara Banno opposed the request stating that it's limiting rights.
"If we were to do that, what your doing is, you're not giving us the choice."
Banno supports the idea of providing education and/or advising people that this does not take the place of a power of attorney and health care surrogate, but did not want to make it part of the application process.
"The number that Council Member Salmon brought up at the workshop is over 1,100 rights we are not entitled to, 1,100 rights, because I love somebody of the same sex. Call that symbolic, call it that there's doubts, call it little value, but I call it unfair," Banno said.
Banno has supported the registry from day one and helped bring it forward to the council. She says it's more than "symbolic" and "has deeper meaning for a lot of people in our community."
"To not be able to receive a phone call, because my partner is in a serious car crash and in the hospital and her parents are called in Pennsylvania, saddens me and hurts me deeply," Banno said.
Vice Mayor Sam Henderson also asked the council to include information that the registry does not substitute a power of attorney or health care surrogate.
During public comment, residents spoke out against requiring the additional documents.
Denise Lowe said the requirement would be discriminatory because those documents are not required to obtain a marriage license.
"In order to have a marriage license in the state of Florida, all your required to have is a drivers license, a social security number or passport and $93.50."
Lowe said the registry will improve the quality of life and lure new residents to Gulfport.
"The point of having the domestic partnership registry is to give people a right that they are now not able to take advantage of, because they chose not to marry or their marriage is not recognized," Denise Lowe said.
"To obtain a power of attorney is not free. Requiring a power of attorney or health care surrogate is not the business of the council, to do so is a kin to poll taxes," Jan Lowe, Denise' partner and wife, said.
Others came forward and encouraged the council to help spread the momentum.
"The test of this is what you do with it after you pass it. For this to be effective, it's going to take work by the council to aggressively and proactively lobby the county, state, even the federal government, to make this thing happen across the nation, as it should," Al Davis said.
"Please, get a list of all the city clerks in the state of Florida, send them an email with this document attached to it, ask them to share it with all their council members, get everyone going, get everybody on board," Bob Worthington said.
Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida said, "You are in fact leading the way. When we went to talk to St. Petersburg, we mentioned that fact that this was something Gulfport was looking at . . . the county will be taking it up soon, we were able to point to Gulfport as a place for leading the way."
"This is not merely symbolic at all, this provides real protections for people," Smith said.
About the ordinance:
The domestic partnership registry is modeled after the Orlando ordinance with elements of the Key West ordinance. The fee is $25 per couple and no longer requires both people to sign the declaration in the presence of the city clerk. The couple may drop off or mail in a notarized declaration.
It specifies the following rights and legal effects:
- Health Care Facility Visitation
- Health Care Decisions
- Funeral/burial Decisions
- Notification of Family Members
- Preneed guardian designation
- Participation in Education
According to the ordinance, domestic partners is defined as two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in a family relationship. Two persons are considered to be domestic partners if:
- They consider themselves to be members of each other's immediate family.
- They agree to be jointly responsible for each other's welfare.
- Neither of them is married under the laws of the State of Florida, is a member of another domestic partnership, or civil union with anyone other than the co-applicant.
- They are not blood related in a way that would prevent them from being married to each other under Florida state law.
- Each is at least 18 years of age and competent to contract.
- They each have signed a declaration of domestic partnership as provided for in section 26-45.
For more information about the registry, view Ordinance 2012-10 attached to this story.
Council will vote on second reading on Tuesday, May 15. The Regular Meeting is at 7 p.m. at
If you would like to share your thoughts on the issue you may contact Gulfport City Council members at the following email addresses: