The Orlando City Council voted unanimously yesterday to enact a domestic partnership registry, making it the first city in central Florida to legally recognize lesbian and gay couples. Though Florida has a constitutional amendment barring marriage equality, the new domestic partnership benefits will provide lesbian and gay couples with some important legal protections, including hospital visitation and the ability to make critical decisions around medical care.
"I support the domestic partnership registry because I believe it keeps us competitive with other world-class communities," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "A domestic partnership registry helps us recruit employers who share our commitment to diversity while attracting and retaining a creative workforce that knows they'll have protections for their families."
While the registry only applies to institutions, such as hospitals and funeral homes, within Orlando city limits, and stops short of granting couples all the protections afforded by full marriage equality, it does ease eliminate the need for power-of-attorney documentation to make funeral arrangements or medical decisions for an incapacitated partner.
Praising the decision of the Orlando City Council, attorney Mary Meeks said, "This is an historic event for Orlando, and it is a monumentally important event for our community. It will be the first time in our lives that our families are recognized by our government." Faith leaders also spoke in support of the registry, calling it a reflection of God’s love.
The registry will begin on January 12, and any couple may join the registry for a $30 fee. The City Clerk’s Office will begin scheduling appointments for couples wishing to have their relationship legally recognized.
GLAAD applauds Equality Florida for advocating on behalf of Orlando couples and encourages the local media to continue to tell the stories of how a lack of relationship recognition impacts gay and lesbian families.