The governing bodies of Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa and Gulfport have all passed ordinances within the past year creating domestic partnership registries. Now at least one Pinellas County commissioner thinks the same should be done at the state level before any more communities follow suit.
Domestic registries grant couples, gay or straight, to have a certificate that allows them to have most of the same rights as heterosexual married couples in Florida. Those rights can include hospital visitation rights, end of life decisions, childcare decisions, and in some cases, insurance coverage.
Up until Jan. 24 when Hillsborough County Commissioners surprisingly voted against creating a registry, no Tampa Bay-area governing body had voted down a domestic partnership registry.
Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche, who was the lone "no" vote when Pinellas approved the registry, said with governments creating varying versions of registries and in some cases voting against them, it will create fiscal headaches for cities and counties.
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He said having individual governments instituting registries creates a “checkerboard” of laws around the state. Should this continue and then the state decide it wants to create one central registry, Roche said it would have been a huge waste of money for local governments.
“It will be a costly and redundant exercise,” Roche said Tuesday. “At some point the state is going to say, ‘let’s do it at the state level.’
“Suddenly if they then do it down the road,” Roche added, "we got to collapse the system we have,” and people will have to throw away their cards and get new certificates.
His answer is to advocate for a statewide system right now before more registries are individually implemented. Roche proposed adding the creation of a statewide domestic partnership registry to Pinellas County’s legislative agenda.
Commissioners approved Roche’s addition to the county’s legislative agenda with the caveat that the state law would mirror the legal language of the county’s registry.
Commissioner Janet Long said while she supported the county’s state lobbyists advocating for a statewide domestic partnership registry, it's unlikely to get any traction in Tallahassee.
“That bill has been filed every year for the last 10 years and it doesn’t ever even get a committee assignment,” Long said. “You have to seriously consider who’s there.”
That is why, Long said, the county needed to create a registry, because local governments cannot wait for the state legislature to act.