Tampa City Council approves domestic partnership registry

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Several members of the public also acknowledged their longtime partnerships, such as Ed Lally, who said he and his spouse have been together for nearly 34 years. He said they had been married in Canada, though their marital status doesn't apply in Florida, of course. He said because he can't be married in this state, he and his partner don't have access to the 1,100 different protections and benefits that heterosexual couples in the U.S. are granted.

Carrie West and Mark Bias.
  • Carrie West and Mark Bias.

Ybor City businessman Carrie West said he's been in a domestic partnership with his partner Mark for 34 years as well. He said passage of the registry was good for all of Tampa and said "it's going to show our county officials where to stand" on the issue.

As CL reported last year, not only is Hillsborough County the largest county in the state that doesn't include the LGBT community in its human rights ordinance, it also has the dubious distinction of having a law on the books that bans "gay pride." The current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners has five Republicans and just two Democrats. The Tampa City Council has seven Democrats.

The registry has been met with enthusiastic approval by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has consistently said that showing respect for gays and gay rights is essentially a no-brainer for any major U.S. city that wants to attract the best and the brightest.

In expressing his support for the measure, Councilman Harry Cohen said he had received nearly 900 positive e-mails about the registry, and not a single negative one.

Councilman Mike Suarez said once the proposal was vetted positively by the city's legal department, he thought it was a great idea. He also brought up the controversy that erupted in the aftermath of former Tampa Police officer Lois Marrero back in 2001, whose domestic partner later was denied pension benefits.

"There will be people who will attack us and take shots at the gay community and say this is a slippery slope towards marriage," Suarez said, before acknowledging the reality that the proposal does no such thing.

Similar registries already exist in Orlando, Gainesville and the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — and officials in Orange County, which encompasses Orlando, have said they intend to pass a similar ordinance soon.

The issue comes back before the Council for a second reading on April 5 at 9 a.m.

  • Yolie Capin

After the Tampa City Council voted unanimously Thursday morning to approve a domestic partnership registry for unmarried couples in Tampa, the question one might have is: What took you so long?

Not that anybody publicly expressed such a sentiment. It was all bonhomie in the Council's chambers, as speaker after speaker effusively praised the board for passing the measure, and specifically Yolie Capin, who introduced the proposal last month after she learned that the city of Orlando had passed a similar ordinance late last year.

The Domestic Partners Registry will give unmarried domestic partners — straight and gay — the ability to visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions for an incapacitated partner and be notified as a family member in case of emergency.

The ease with which the vote came also illustrated the vast gulf on social issues that stands between the governments of the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County, a difference that was noted by several speakers who came before the Council.

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