Pensacola approves domestic partner registry 8-1

Pensacola – In a historic vote, the Pensacola City Council approved a domestic partnership registry at its Dec. 12 meeting. It is the first city west of Tallahassee to pass an ordinance, offering cohabiting, unmarried couples both gay and straight to register as domestic partner for a small fee.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Larry Johnson, will give registered couples a number of small, but important rights. Those include: the ability to make medical and funeral decisions for each other, visit one another in the hospital or prison and participate in the education of mutual children. Registered domestic partners will be automatically notified in case of an emergency.

Though a rarity in conservative towns like Pensacola, support for domestic partner registries have gained momentum across Florida. At least 14 cities and counties, representing about half the state’s population, have approved registries.

Supports of the ordinance showed up dressed in red and addressed council members, appealing to their humanity, sense of justice and pocketbooks. The measure ultimately passed 8 to 1.

In the days leading up to the Dec. 12 vote, opponents of the registry had argued that existing legal remedies were sufficient to guarantee domestic partners the promised rights and that the proposal was a covert attempt to extend recognition to gay marriage, which Florida voters declared illegal by constitutional amendment in 2008.

But opponents of the proposal were conspicuously absent at the meeting. No one spoke in opposition to the ordinance.
Sara Latshaw, regional director for the American Civil Liberties Union and author of the approved ordinance, called “the night’s vote a victory for everyone in Pensacola.”

“With the new domestic partnership registry, all families will have access to tools to help them securely build a life together and protect their loved ones,” Latshaw said in a media release. “The domestic partnership registry will fulfill the promise that Pensacola is a welcoming community where we treat our neighbors with fairness by allowing couples regardless of gender to make important financial, medical and emergency decisions together. Our city joins with cities and counties making up over 55 percent of the state’s population in granting these important rights to its citizens.”

The city has 90 days to set up the registry.

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