Despite opposition, Hillsborough approves partnership registry

Tampa – Hillsborough County Commissioners unanimously approved a domestic partnership registry Oct. 15, even though more than two thirds of the those speaking on the measure opposed it.

“There’s a hidden agenda here. Please, vote no,” said Mike Frank, of Thonotossassa.

Hillsborough’s registry, similar to those passed in Tampa and Pinellas County, ensures rights such as hospital visitation and end of life decision-making for unmarried couples, gay or straight.

The unanimous vote is another LGBT-rights victory in a county typically associated with socially conservative views. This same commission, for example, rejected a similar registry in January 2013.

The wording in the updated ordinance added a sentence to point out the distinction between a partnership and a marriage, which was a point of contention the last time the commission considered the registry. In the ordinance, the commission points out that it does “not intend that this Ordinance be construed as recognizing domestic partnerships as marriage.”

Speaker David Koffron said that passing the ordinance would result in punishments from a higher power and declared that it violated “The Golden Rule.”

“We are being force-fed a line of garbage in the media,” he said. “Just remember, come election time, there are way more people opposed to this than are for it.”

But times have changed, several commissioners pointed out. Kevin Beckner, the county’s first and only out commissioner, pushed for the domestic partner registry.

“This just isn’t about one segment of our community, it is about our entire community,” Beckner said. “I absolutely believe that this is something essential that we need in this county.”

While those opposed to it appeared to be part of a church movement of sorts, no one confirmed to local media that they were part of an organized effort. Despite the many anti-gay remarks, PFLAG Tampa founder Nancy Desmond wasn’t impressed with the arguments against the ordinance.

“The anti-gay commenters all seemed to come together, and they all spouted the same couple of uninformed talking points,” she said after the meeting. “Many just asked the BOCC to vote no, then sat down. The pro-gay speakers had varied, intelligent points and clearly won the day.”

Hillsborough County residents wanting to enter into a recognized domestic partnership may now do so at the Tampa clerk’s office at 315 E. Kennedy Blvd.

Names in the registry will be provided to local hospitals in a database to ensure partners have access to each other in the case of a medical emergency.

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