Last week Equality Florida and the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee released a statement rebutting many of the concerns raised by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs about the constitutionality and necessity of a domestic partnership registry ordinance that specifically names and defines domestic partners. The first page of that statement is below. The entire letter is attached.
The Orange County domestic partnershp registry will be on the Orange County Commission agenda Tues. February 21st at 9:00am. The conversation will be open to the public and public testimony is expected. Advocates for the ordinance are encouraged to wear your best red and attend to speak in favor of the ordinance.
Letter to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs from the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee:
Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee
PO Box 947752 Maitland, FL 32794-7752
Equality Begins at Home
OADO thanks you for meeting with us and other members of the LGBT and allied community last week to discuss your intentions with regard to the proposed Domestic Partnership Registry. We appreciate the opportunity to hear your thoughts and to provide you feedback. Our team left feeling positive about your commitment to maintaining an open mind and ongoing dialogue and also very troubled by some of your assumptions about how this ordinance must be written. We appreciated your clear commitment to bringing the issue to the BCC in February. You raised questions about our objectives in our meeting last week. Let’s start by addressing those.
OADO expects our leaders in Orange County to do everything possible to both recognize the many contributions of Orange County’s large lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and to do everything in your power to fill the serious gaps in protections for our families. We believe that there are straight couples who do not get married for financial, legal, and emotional reasons; thus, we support keeping an Orange County domestic partnership registry (DPR) ordinance inclusive of straight-unmarried couples. We recognize that there is a general lack of education about the limited protections offered through state and federal law for individuals with non-romantic and non-biological relationships and support the County’s desire to bring greater clarity and efficiency to those processes. We believe that though compelling and worthy of action, this is a distinctly different issue than the need to provide enforceable legal protections to couples who cannot or will not get married and their children. We believe that the only way to provide the full blanket of legal protections for unmarried couples and their children is to name and define “domestic partners” in the new law we create, a practice that is consistent with two decades of public and private policy across the state and country.
We reject the idea that naming and defining “domestic partners” in an Orange County DPR is in violation of Amendment 2, and caution you and your legal team to do your due diligence before taking a position with such far-reaching implications. Just last year, you, Orange County Commissioners, and Orange County attorneys created public policy that named and defined “domestic partners.” In the last two years elected, appointed, and administrative leaders in the City of Orlando, City of Kissimmee, City of St. Cloud, University of Central Florida, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Toho Water Authority, Orlando Utility Authority, and Orange County worked with their staff attorneys to create benefit policies for unmarried gay (and sometimes straight) employees and their children that name and define “domestic partners.” No one, including yourself and your legal advisors, has found legal grounds for denying these protections to the families of your own employees. We are deeply concerned that you could argue against those same protections for all citizens of Orange County.
We are looking forward to meeting with you again before this issue is presented to the BCC. In the interim, we’ve prepared research and responses to the specific concerns you raised last week. We’re confident that you will keep your promise to maintain an open mind and an open heart as we continue dialogue.
Founder, Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee