Registry 'bells' ring through St. Petersburg

Brandi and Charmaine Bernaduci, St. Petersburg residents, were also one of the couples at the Clerk’s Office that day. Writing down her name, Charmaine Bernaduci began to write "Smith", her now “maiden” name. Her partner piped up, “No baby, Bernaduci. You’re a Bernaduci now, baby!”

They smiled. Not only had the couple registered that day, but Charmaine Bernaduci also legally changed her name.

The couple has been together for nine years, and this registry is crucial to their family’s well-being. A few years ago, Brandi Bernaduci faced serious health issues when doctors discovered tumors. Charmaine Bernaduci was asked to leave the hospital room, since she was not a "relative". Brandi Bernaduci, who was unconscious at the time, had no say in whether her partner was by her side. Now, never again will they be prevented from holding hands at the hospital bedside. Additionally, Brandi Bernaduci will be able to assist with school and medical matters related to her partner's children, whom they've raised together for nearly a decade.

Right: Brandi Bernaduci Left: Charmaine Bernaduci
  • Right: Brandi Bernaduci Left: Charmaine Bernaduci

For the Bernaducis, although theirs isn't a marriage certificate, it is equally as important to them. The couple had previously considered relocating to New York once the state legalized gay marriage there, for fear Florida would never see the same progress. Now they're no longer planning to leave. Instead, like many newlyweds, they're celebrating. They intend to hold a small celebratory dinner with loved ones, followed by a larger, more traditional wedding next year. And looking toward the future, they hope to bring a baby Bernaduci into the world. “That is our biggest thing moving forward, Brandi really wants to have children of her own," said Charmaine Bernaduci.

The First Kiss
  • The First Kiss

When asked what move for LGBT rights they would like to see the government make next, the couple said that although legalizing same-sex marriage would be ideal, the main thing they would like to happen is not a legal change, but an attitude change. Basically, they hope to see those who disagree with LGBT relationships keeping down the noise. “People protest the pride parade, and are really hateful. We are not trying to make you gay, let us be,” said Brandi Bernaduci.

Heavy words on the same day that crowds of anti-gay marriage supporters mobbed Chick-fil-As across the country in solidarity with the fast food chain's president, Dan Cathy, speaking out for "traditional marriage", and the chicken joint's history of funding anti-LGBT organizations.

Regardless of where you stand on the great chicken debate of 2012, this much is true: The Smith family, Kornell and his partner, and the Bernaducis are now legally recognized by the city of St. Petersburg. Domestic partnership registries have been approved throughout our area at a tremendous speed over the past six months. In addition to St. Pete, similar legislation was approved in Gulfport, Tampa, Clearwater and Sarasota, and Largo, as well as Pinellas County, are exploring their own versions of the law.

The St. Petersburg registry is not limited to residents of the city. It will also apply to those in unincorporated Pinellas County and those living outside Pinellas County — even residents of other states can register.

While this registry does not afford the same rights as marriage, it can still grant the following vital protections for families: health-care visitations, health-care decisions should a partner become incapacitated, funeral and burial decisions for a partner, education rights and decisions for a partner's children and more. For a $30 fee, any gay or straight unmarried couple can sign up.

If you and your significant other are thinking of taking the big leap and making it legal, you can find some more important information here.

Congrats to those of you that have registered this week. If parenthood is the next step for your family and you would like to share your journey to parenthood or as new LGBT parents, please contact Amber Dame.

As Facebook rants and excess media commentary over a certain fast food chain's gay marriage controversy ran rampant last week, St. Petersburg simultaneously opened its domestic partnership registry.

Opening on Aug. 1, this was also a very personal milestone for the more than 13 couples who were the first to register. Included in those registered that day were Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, and her partner, Andrea Hildebran-Smith, as well as St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell and his partner, Robert Poth III.

"This is an important day for St. Pete and for couples long denied the legal protections for ourselves and our loved ones," said Smith. "While my wife and I are legally married, those protections are stripped from us when we return to our home state. We will continue to work for full equality under the law.”

  • Right to Left: Council Member Kornell, Robert Poth, Andrea Hildebran-Smith, Logan Smith, Nadine Smith

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