Orange County domestic partner registry: more talk, no action

Orange County domestic partner registry: more talk, no action

While the future of a domestic partner registry for Orange County remains unclear, one thing is certain: There will be more discussions.

Ten key local LGBT activists â┚¬â€œ most of them members of the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee (OADO) â┚¬â€œ met with Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs on the morning of Jan. 26. Mayor Jacobs also brought in a few advisors, including John Dowless, former head of Florida's Christian Coalition. No media were permitted to attend the meeting but the LGBT activists conducted a briefing afterward, outside the county administration building.

OrlandoDomParRegAllTalkNoActionLocal attorney and OADO member Mary Meeks called the meeting â┚¬Å”positive and productive,â┚¬Â but it's still not clear what path the proposed registry will take from here. Meeks stated several times during the briefing that Jacobs committed to bringing a plan before the board in February, but did not name a specific date and was unable to reveal what, exactly, that plan would be.

â┚¬Å”It is necessary to recognize that the February discussion remains to be seen,â┚¬Â Meeks said. â┚¬Å”Mayor Jacobs will decide on the best proposal and then bring it to the board in February. It may be a domestic partner registry, it may be something else.â┚¬Â

On Jan. 9, Jacobs alarmed LGBT activists when she proposed an alternative to the domestic partner registry: a downloadable form that would allow any individual to assign any resident â┚¬â€œ gay or straight â┚¬â€œ to make their important medical, end-of-life and other decisions. Since then, Jacobs has acknowledged a need for an ordinance in order to create a domestic partner registry, but has not clarified whether she specifically supports that ordinance.

Mayor Jacobs released a statement after the meeting. It said: â┚¬Å”I feel this is another step towards creating an ordinance in Orange County that supports our citizens when they place their trust in a loved one to make funeral, medical and other emergency decisions for them. I want to thank those who took part in our discussion for their frankness and perspective. I will continue to research this complex issue and will schedule another meeting with the group before bringing the issue to the Board of County Commissioners next month. My goal is to introduce an ordinance in Orange County that meets the needs of our citizens without substantial risk of being successfully challenged in a court of law.â┚¬Â

Jacobs did not specify any timeline or specific action that would be taken in the future on the issue.

Randy Stephens, executive director of The Center, said there was progress made at the meeting â┚¬Å”but not as much as I hoped.â┚¬Â

He confirmed there would be a second meeting between Mayor Jacobs and LGBT activists but was unable to confirm a date.

â┚¬Å”Mayor Jacobs said she would like to start the process in February,â┚¬Â Stephens said.

Stephens said â┚¬Å”the mayor has a hard time saying â┚¬Ëœdomestic partnership',â┚¬Â but pointed out that domestic partnerships were defined back in April of 2011, when the county commission approved domestic partner benefits for county employees.

â┚¬Å”That's another point we may with to pursue,â┚¬Â Stephens said.

Stephens said he's â┚¬Å”no less hopefulâ┚¬Â that the county will have a domestic partner registry than before the meeting.

â┚¬Å”I'm just realizing it's going to be a longer process,â┚¬Â he said.

In the post-meeting briefing, Meeks did indicate that even if Mayor Jacobs and OADO do not come to a consensus and Mayor Jacobs brings something other than a domestic partner registry before the board, that doesn't mean the registry is dead in the water.

â┚¬Å”Mayor Jacobs will allow the board to consider alternatives to her proposal,â┚¬Â Meeks said. â┚¬Å”If we can convince enough of the commissioners to support it, there will be a vote on a domestic partner registry.â┚¬Â

Meeks said she believes Mayor Jacobs is envisioning a way for any two adults to designate each other for medical decisions and hospital visitations, whether or not they are romantically involved.

Joe Saunders with Equality Florida confirmed during the briefing that at this time, there is â┚¬Å”no comprehensive planâ┚¬Â being proposed, calling the meeting â┚¬Å”a greater articulation of things we've already heard.â┚¬Â

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