Ybor activist and businessman Carrie West signs up for Tampa's Domestic Partner Registry

"This is not a gay marriage, this is not same sex marriage rights," West said. "This is just something that's equal and fair to all residents."

After West and Bias signed up for the registry, they met up with friends at Ybor City's LGBT-friendly Hamburger Mary's. The restaurant's owner, Kurt King, said he's written emails expressing his anger to the four commissioners who recently rejected the proposal for a county domestic partnership registry. He took it personally because he has experienced the inequality that comes from not being able to have a partnership that's recognized by the government. King's partner Larry was hospitalized at Tampa General Hospital two years ago. King said on three separate occasions he had to leave the hospital to get his power of attorney paperwork that allowed him to have a say about Larry's care.

Most alarming was during one of those occasions when he had to return to his home in Valrico only to get back to the hospital and discover that Larry was no longer in his hospital room.

"His room was empty, his belongings were in the trash can ... it took me an hour to find out where he was. And I had to go home to get the power of attorney paperwork," he said.

On Jan. 24, during the public hearing portion of the Commission's discussion about the registry, one citizen scoffed at the notion that a power of attorney could cost thousands of dollars. He said it would only be a couple of hundred dollars at most.

But King said good luck finding an attorney who will help navigate the various forms for that amount of money.

"You also need a whole bunch of different contracts, plus the power of attorney. It cost us well over $4,000," King said. "You can get a power of attorney paperwork done, but there's no attorney who's going to do it for $200."

  • Mark Bias and Carrie West observed their 35th anniversary together by signing up for Tampa's Domestic Partner Registry

On Monday, with Mayor Bob Buckhorn looking on, Carrie West — president of the GaYBOR District Coalition — and his longtime partner Mark Bias became the latest couple to sign up for Tampa's domestic partner registry.

West said it's their 35th anniversary as a couple, and to make it special they opted to sign up for the benefits that a domestic partner registry provides.

Benefits include being able to visit a partner in a hospital, make certain health care decisions for a partner, make funeral and burial decisions for a partner, to be notified as a family member in case of an emergency, and to participate in the education of a partner's child/children.

West, a former Tampa City Council candidate, said he was extremely disappointed in the Hillsborough County Commission's recent rejection of a registry.

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