Gay couples in Sarasota will now have rights to shared health care coverage, education decisions for their children and other matters.
The Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved a domestic partner registry at its Monday afternoon meeting. On Dec. 4, couples—straight or gay—can show up to City Hall to fill out the paperwork to file as domestic partners.
The city joins Gulfport, Tampa, St. Petersburg and several other Florida jurisdictions to establish a domestic partner registry.
Commissioner Terry Turner and City Attorney Robert Fournier help bridged the gap to compromise between a request to have the registry start immediately and a 90-day wait originally written in the ordinance.
It specifies the following rights and legal effects:
- Health Care Facility Visitation
- Health Care Decisions
- Funeral/burial Decisions
- Notification of Family Members
- Pre-need 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.
The ordinance also builds in the ability to merge or work with a domestic registry ordinance for Sarasota County if the Sarasota County Commission decides to establish one in the future.
Former Commissioner Ken Sheilan, who helped organized the movement for the Sarasota registry, would have rather had the registry take immediate effect rather than the 90 days to allow the Auditor and Clerk's Office to prepare forms and finalize the process to complete and file registries.
"I believe 90-days is far too long, since preparation by staff is essentially limited to shopping office supplies," Sheilan said.
However, thanks to low staffing and a busy season to approve for-hire vehicle permit renewals, Auditor and Clerk Pamela Nadalini said her office will need the 90 days to complete the process due to the other obligations her office faces.
"As simple as they may be, it still may be prudent of us to take the time to make sure that we create proper processes because this is new to the city," Nadalini said.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder supports waiting the 90 day wait to help work out the kinks before couples show up en masse to register.
"We're going to have a line of people when this thing is announced, and God bless them coming down. If we don't do it right, and they don't have the staff and stuff, we're going to have a cluster," he said. "I think Ms. Nadalini's staff is already tied up. It's not the forms—it's the day that all this gets started. We may not even be able to do it at City Hall. We may have to do it at the Civic Center or over at the Van Wezel."
City Manager Tom Barwin, speaking from experience when the Village of Oak Park, Ill., started a domestic registry, "doubt there will be lines of people, but I may be pleasantly surprised" so it should be doable to accommodate the first groups wanting to register.
At the Dec. 3 commission meeting, Nadalini is scheduled to present the forms and fees. The fees are estimated to be about $35.
The city already recognized domestic partnerships for city employees where domestic partners can share health and life benefits.
Domestic Partner Registry Coverage:
- Group Wants Domestic Registry In Sarasota
- Sarasota Closer To Having Domestic Partner Registry
- Sarasota Domestic Partner Registry Goes To Vote Monday
Reports from Gulfport Patch were used in this story.