ORLANDO – The city’s first ever domestic partnership registry, approved today by the Orlando City Council, will be open for business starting on Tuesday, City Clerk Alana Brenner announced.
She said the forms would be available at the City Clerk’s Office on the second floor of Orlando City Hall at 400 S. Orange Ave., where gay and straight couples who wanted to register could start showing up immediately.
“You can start making appointments as early as tomorrow,” Brenner announced at the start of the final public hearing on the domestic partnership registry that had been proposed by Commissioner Patty Sheehan.
“You need to bring three things,” Brenner said, adding that the list starts with the most obvious – “Your partner.” That brought a huge laugh and applause from the crowd attending the meeting in the commission chambers.
“Number two, you need to bring some identification,” Brenner said. “And number three, $30.”
That $30 is the fee required to sign up with the new registry that would allow gay and lesbian couples to have legal rights to be able to visit one another in the hospital, nursing home or jail, and to make funeral plans or health care decisions if their partner becomes incapacitated.
The registry would not be limited to Orlando residents, although it would only apply to facilities – hospitals, nursing homes, etc. – within the Orlando city limits. It would also offer domestic partner benefits to city employees.
The fee is a real bargain, Sheehan said.
“The domestic partnership fee is $30, and is a lot cheaper than hiring a lawyer,” Sheehan said. “I know this is a landmark day.”
Orlando now becomes the first city in Central Florida to adopt a domestic partners registry.
The city council had unanimously approved the ordinance at its last meeting on Dec. 5, but a second vote was required before it could become law. The proposal attracted a long line of people looking to testify on it, mostly in favor.
Mayor Buddy Dyer, a supporter of the domestic partner registry, made note of that, pointing out all the supporters in the chambers who were wearing red t-shirts.
“There’s a lot of red here in the chambers today, which could mean the holidays are coming up,” Dyer said. “It is more likely they are wearing red today in the chambers because they support the domestic partnership registry.”
“This is a history event here in Orlando,” said Mary Meeks, an attorney with the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee. “It will be the first time in our lives that our families are recognized by our government.”
The fact that commissioners approved the ordinance on Dec. 5 by a unanimous vote, she added, “sends the message loud and clear that this is an issue that is not up for debate.”
It also gives the city’s gay and lesbian community strong legal protections, she added.
“Today starts an exciting new chapter where at least here in Orlando, our rights are recognized and valued,” Meeks said.
It would also be good for business, added Gina Duncan, president of the Central Florida LGTB Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a highly personal ordinance, and it’s highly personal to every one of us,” she said, adding that it will also encourage gay business owners and gay-friendly companies to relocate here, stimulating the local economy.
“This is good for business and jobs,” Duncan said.
“This registry gives me a sense of hope for my community,” said Timothy Murray of Orlando. “I come here to ask for a gift in 2012 — the gift of equality.”
Rev. Rev. Kathy Schmitz, pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Orlando, called the registry a “clarion call to justice, kindness and humility. Thank you for moving us closer to that loving city.”
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