A group of residents is pushing for expanded gay rights in Sarasota by requesting to establish domestic registry in the city.
The measure, which is gender/sexual orientation neutral, would grant couples certain legal rights in a partner’s life without challenging laws on civil unions and gay marriage, said Grace Carlson, of Carlson Marketing Studio, who led the presentation with former commissioner Ken Shelin during Monday’s city commission meeting at .
“It’s not a civil union; it’s not a marriage. This is definition that is recognized by the state of Florida,” Carlson said. “It’s defining a relationship between two loving, committed adults who share a residence and a common life who provide and care for one another and immediate family members.”
Simply, the group would like the city attorney to draft an ordinance and have a public hearing to weigh in. The commissioners will have to wait until their next meeting until further action could be taken. The city already recognized domestic partnerships for city employees where domestic partners can share health and life benefits, Shelin said.
For Shelin, he doesn’t work for the city and created what he thought was the best system with his partner but found it’s not good enough thanks to the laws on the books.
“My partner and I have been together for 35 years. We spent thousands of dollars creating trusts and healthcare directives and power of attorney and my partner’s having surgery on Thursday this week and we have already been told that the surgery center will not honor a healthcare directive,” Shelin said.
Another Patch community, Gulfport, signed the Domestic Registry into law there May 15 becoming the 12th municipality in Florida to approve domestic registries.
That ordinance was modeled after the Orlando ordinance that the Sarasota organizers shared as well as the Key West ordinance. (You can view the Orlando ordinance in a PDF with this story.)
Here’s what the domestic registry does, :
It specifies the following rights and legal effects:
- Health Care Facility Visitation
- Health Care Decisions
- Funeral/burial Decisions
- Notification of Family Members
- Preneed guardian designation
- Participation in Education
According to the ordinance, domestic partners are two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in a family relationship. Two persons are considered to be domestic partners if:
- They consider themselves to be members of each other's immediate family.
- They agree to be jointly responsible for each other's welfare.
- Neither of them is married under the laws of the State of Florida, is a member of another domestic partnership, or civil union with anyone other than the co-applicant.
- They are not blood related in a way that would prevent them from being married to each other under Florida state law.
- Each is at least 18 years of age and competent to contract.
They each have signed a declaration of domestic partnership as provided for in section 26-45.
Carlson says such an ordinance would provide an economic driver.
“It would be another way to encourage people to come to the city knowing they’re just going to be treated fairly, civically and decently,” she said.
More than 12 percent of American households have domestic partners, according to the U.S. Census, representing a 5 percent increase since the 2000 Census and in Tampa there are more than 9,000 households who have domestic partners, Shelin said.
When Orlando created its registry, 391 couples registered during the first four months, he said.
The cost of operating the program would also have to be determined for Sarasota.
Gulfport charges $25 for couples to register to offset costs while Orlando charges $30.
The rest of the costs, like blank business cards, embossed seals, parchment paper were in regular office supply costs for the city, Shelin said.
According to figures Shelin provided from the Orlando assistant city clerk, the city took in $8,730 in revenue.
CHIME IN: Should Sarasota pass a law to allow domestic registries in the city?