A measure that would have given same-sex partners more freedom to make medical and financial decisions for each other failed to get the support it needed from Hillsborough County Commissioners on Thursday.
The City of Tampa approved a domestic partnership registry in April that applies to Seminole Heights. The registry opened its rolls in June and so far 369 people have registered. Pinellas County decided to create it own registry last week. Nearby Pasco has yet to consider the issue, said Commissioner Pat Mulieri.
The board voted 4-3 against creating a Domestic Partnership Registry for Hillsborough County.
Commissioners Al Higginbothom, Sandra Murman and Victor Crist voted against the motion. Commissioners Mark Sharpe, Kevin Beckner and Les Miller voted in favor.
Commissioner Mark Sharpe introduced the measure. Sharpe holds a county-wide seat.
"As a citizen who lives in this county and as tax payer aren't they owed the respect and right to have these six basic rights and services that government itself provides," Sharpe said.
Sharpe suggested patterning the county's registry after Tampa's.
Tampa's registry allows the following rights to couples who register:
- to visit his or her partner in health care facilities
- to make certain health care decisions for his or her partner
- to make funeral and burial decisions for his or her partner
- to be notified as a family member in case of emergency
- to be designated his or her partner's pre-need guardian
- to participate in the education of his or her partner's children
The issue created a lot of discussion during the public comment portion of the meeting before the final vote.
"It is a matter of basic fairness," said Joyce Hamilton Henry, director of the ACLU’s Central Florida Regional Office. "One doesn’t have to agree that same-sex relationships are the same as heterosexual relationships to realize it is unfair to treat committed couples as strangers."
Betty James, a Sun City resident disagreed.
"When I heard that there was a proposal being presented here to create domestic partnership registry I was stunned," James said. "My first reaction was that county commissioners who are in favor of this must be thinking that Hillsborough County adults don’t have the sense God gave a goose.
"They’re not smart enough to use the Internet to download forms for durable power of attorney or appoint a health care surrogate?" James added. "All of those things can be done (and) you don’t have to have an attorney."
Todd Marks, a Westchase resident and lawyer, also spoke out against the registry.
"I stand in opposition to the domestic partnership registry," said Marks who operates Westchase Law. "The intent of those laws will provide a legal and factual support to courts to further redefine marriage and undermine marriage."
To be eligible for the domestic partnership registry, couples must be unmarried adults, not committed to another person through another registry or civil union, live together, and agree to be responsible for each others basic needs.
About 16 locations in Florida have domestic partnership registries, including the City of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Clearwater and Pinellas County.
"My position is based squarely on my faith and personal beliefs," Higginbothom said before casting a vote against moving forward on the domestic partnership registry.
Westchase, do you agree with the commission's decision not to create a domestic registry for Hillsborough County?