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Domestic Partnership Registry One Step Closer to Passage

The domestic partnership registry passed first reading with a 4-1 vote by the Gulfport City Council Tuesday night.

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.

Public Comment:

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.

What's next?

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:

Douglas Hudson May 02, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Cherlene, Thanks for this informative article. Fair and honest reporting is hard to come by...
Lynda May 02, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Thanks for including some comments from those who commented during the public session as well as from the council members. People who are willing to show up and give their opinions on the record are important for open, honest government that really meets citizen needs.
Mark L Grantham May 02, 2012 at 08:01 PM
This article and energy that is associated with it is important for many municipalities and people. Gulfport is telling the surrounding areas that diversity is welcomed in this area. Diversity can be gay/straight, married/unmarried, old/young, all are welcomed in this funky little town! Contrary to what many are choosing to say, this is not a precursor to "gay marriage", it is a positive and affirming action, it affirms that all are equal in Gulfport. The Domestic Partnership Registry is a pro-active step taken by the city of Gulfport, every person involved in this should be happy and pleased!
Cherlene Willis May 02, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Thanks Doug! I greatly appreciate your kind comment - Cherlene
Bill Church May 03, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I attended last night's council meeting and would like to comment about the sensitivity about the 'symbolic' comments - in fact - outside of our dear city it is merely symbolic - unfortunate but true - There were push back comments re a power of attorney and final directive but in today's world domestic partners will need those two docs to have their legal standing recognized - our domestic partner registry currently has no legal standing outside of our city limits. Those council members suggesting those two docs were being supportive and realistic. Hopefully someday this may change but today even I as a single male need those docs to make sure that MY wishes will be followed by beauracrats and healthcare personnel.
Cherlene Willis May 03, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Thank you all for sharing your opinions about this very important topic in Gulfport.
Douglas Hudson May 03, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Gulfport CPA David Hastings has made a generous offer to prepare FOR FREE a Health Care Surrogate and a Power of Attorney for any Gulfport resident. It only takes about an hour per couple. This is a very generous offer from Dave, and I strongly ENCOURAGE all Domestic partner couples to have these documents in place. But, I do NOT believe that the city should REQUIRE couples to have these documents before being allowed to sign up for a Domestic Partner Registry. David Hastings, CPA, PA, can be reached at 727.322.0909 or email davidcpa@tampabay.rr.com to make an appointment.
Mark L Grantham May 03, 2012 at 01:28 PM
it is a generous offer made by Mr. Hastings, an offer that many should be grateful for its existence. another thing that should be remembered, this registry is not mandatory, it is completely optional. this registry is a small attempt at general equality, yes, equality, a concept or statement that has many "up in arms". the City Council and various workers involved in this should be very pleased, this is a small step forward, a step that will affect many, many grateful and appreciative individuals.
Douglas Hudson May 03, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Yes, Mark...that is very important to remember. I stated this at the workshop where this was discussed. This registry is an OPTION. It is NOT mandatory.
Rob Fowler May 06, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Perfect! More community involvement with solid results always works best for me.

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