TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida currently does not recognize domestic partnerships statewide, but an effort is under way at the state Capitol to try to change that.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel is pushing legislation that would provide statewide recognition of domestic partnerships. It would also create a system allowing people to register as domestic partners.
Sobel said gay or heterosexual people should share certain rights with their partners, whether it's the legal right to visit a loved one in the hospital, own real estate together or be notified in emergencies.
A lot of cities and counties already recognize domestic partnerships, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
But supporters of the bill say Florida has a patchwork of jurisdictions recognizing domestic partnerships and that creates negative consequences.
"If you live on the border between a municipality that has these protections and on that doesn't, in that urgent moment when seconds matter, do you have to consult a GPS to determine which hospital you're going to race to, which place will respect you as a family and which one will treat you as a legal stranger," said Nadine Smith of Equality Florida.
Smith said Florida just ought to look at how major corporations are handling the issue. She said a majority of Fortune 500 companies offer the protections included in the bill because they understand it helps them hire the best employees.
"It's the opportunity for the government to get out of the way of people who simply want to take care of their loved ones and not have to face unreasonable obstacles, obstacles that shouldn't exist."
Sen. Sobel said the legislation does not violate the Marriage Protection Amendment in the Florida constitution because it does not create a legal union comparable to marriage.
Supporters say the measure grants about one percent of the rights given to married couples. The bill faces a committee vote on Tuesday.
First Coast News