Weekly Newsletter: Public Policy Update, Issue 1
Welcome to the first issue of Equality Florida’s Public Policy Weekly Newsletter!
Every Friday we will post the newsletter on our blog so you can stay up-to-date on current LGBT policies in Florida. Also, we will include a “Legislator Spotlight” to introduce a new state legislator every week. What better way to get ready for the 2013 legislative session?!
First Major Victory of 2013: Pinellas County Passes Domestic Partnership Registry
On January 15th, by a 6-1 vote, the Pinellas County Commission voted to create a countywide domestic partnership registry (DPR) becoming the latest in a string of communities that now provide valuable legal protections for same-sex couples and unmarried opposite-sex partners.
Kudos to Ken Welch for leading the effort and to Commissioners John Morroni, Karen Seel, Susan Latvala, Janet C. Long and Charlie Justice for voting YES! The only NO vote was Norm Roche.
Although the DPR officially takes effect in 10 days, couples will likely have to wait about 90 days before the registry opens. The county plans to charge a $50 fee to register. For residents of Gulfport, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, who already have registered as domestic partners in their cities, the fee will be reduced so they pay only the difference between the cities’ fees and the county’s fee.
“The tide is shifting rapidly towards fairness in Florida,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida.
City of Tavares: On The Road To Passing A Domestic Partnership Registry
On Wednesday, January 16th, the Tavares City Council held a public hearing to consider the passage of a Domestic Partnership Registry (DPR). A supporter from the meeting claimed there were roughly 40 pro-equality supporters at the hearing. The Council Members gave the intial approval for the DPR, but a second vote will occur on Feburary 6th. If approved at the next public hearing, the City of Tavares will have passed the first DPR in Lake County.
Hillsborough County Disgrace
On Thursday, January 24th, the Hillsborough County Commission held a meeting where they discussed whether or not to move forward with a countywide Domestic Partner Registry (DPR). Unfortunately, the commission voted 4-3 against the DPR. The County Commissioners Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Al Higginbotham and Sandra Murman voted NO on the common sense and basic fairness that has already been adopted in communities across the state.
We appreciate Mark Sharpe, Kevin Beckner and Les Miller for showing leadership on the issue! Domestic partnership registries provide real protections for couples unprotected by marriage laws.
Their vote to prevent a domestic partner registry in Hillsborough County will NOT go unanswered.
What You Need To Know About S.B. 196: The “Families First” Bill
A statewide bill that would allow Floridians to enter “domestic partnerships” (SB 196) was filed on January 9th by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D). The “Families First” bill would extend important legal protections to same-sex couples in Florida, including hospital visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for a partner.
We’ve seen tremendous change on the local level in recognizing same-sex relationship,” said Mallory Wells, Equality Florida’s Public Policy Director. “But now we face a patchwork of policies. So someone can work in Orange County and be recognized there but live across county lines in Seminole county and not be recognized there. Senator Sobel’s “Families First” bill would allow couples to register and have their relationship recognized, no matter where they live in the state.”
What is that status of the bill now?
1/09/2013 – Senator Sobel filed the "Families First Act" in the Senate (S.B. 196)
1/11/2013 – Bill was referred to Children, Families and Elder Affairs; Judiciary; Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Appropriations; Rules Committees in the Senate
1/18/2013 -- Representative Pafford filed the "Families First Act" in the House (H.B. 259).
Legislator Spotlight: Senator Sobel
Senator Eleanor Sobel is a two-term Democrat from District 33. Her career in public service spans over 20 years, starting with her time as City Commissioner for the City of Hollywood, FL from 1992 until her election to the FL House of Representatives in 1998. She served as a Broward County School Board Member from 2006 until her election to the Senate in 2008.
Senator Sobel has worked hard to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the state of Florida. She has proposed bills regarding the Kidcare program and anti-bullying policies in public schools. Following the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting in 2012, she called for a task force to look into state policies regarding hate crimes. As an advocate for truth and fairness, Senator Sobel formed a task force to look into voting problems in Broward County during the November 2012 election.
On January 9th, 2013, Senator Sobel filed S.B. 196, the “Families First” bill, which allows Floridians to enter into “domestic partnerships”.