Daniel Rein
Board Member, ACLU of Florida Sarasota Chapter

Despite Florida’s well-earned reputation as a bastion of conservative views regarding social issues, the LGBT community has seen changes reflecting a moderating of that reputation.

An increasing number of counties and municipalities are adopting ordinances recognizing same-sex couples as “family.” These take the form of registration of domestic partnership, usually with a city or county clerk, who then enters the names into a government data base. While these domestic-partner registries do not confer the legal weight of marriage, they generally give the couple certain important rights:

  1. Recognition of their union by the government entity;
  2. Notification of a life-threatening emergency by public authorities;
  3. Visitation rights in hospitals and jails;
  4. Medical and other healthcare decisions for an incapacitated partner
  5. Planning for a funeral/disposition of remains.

The couple must also agree to take care each other financially.

It is important to note that these Domestic-Partner Registries (“DPR”) are also particularly useful for opposite-sex couples who have children or other responsibilities from a previous relationship and who do not want to be married for estate-planning or other reasons.

The first of these DPRs in Florida went into effect in Key West in 1998.

The ACLU Sarasota Chapter, along with Equality Florida and Ken Shelin, a former Sarasota Commissioner, has been in the forefront of pushing for a DPR in our city. And on October 1st, the first reading of our proposed ordinance was passed unanimously by the Sarasota City Commission. The final vote will be today, October 15th, and ACLU supporters in Sarasota are encouraged to attend the meeting. Assuming the same result that we saw on the 1st, the law will go into effect ninety days later.

This is a huge step forward for equality in our city. Next step: watch out, Sarasota County!