ORLANDO – It’s official: starting on Thursday, gay and lesbian couples will be able to register with the city of Orlando, courtesy of the region’s first Domestic Partner Registry, which officially goes into effect on Jan. 12.
And it’s expected to be a very busy and crowded morning at Orlando City Hall on Thursday, noted City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, a strong supporter of the registry. She noted that 88 couples have already signed up to register on the first day.
“I will be among the first couples to register,” Sheehan said.
There will even be a celebration at 10 a.m. on Thursday in honor of the new registry, which was approved on Dec. 12 by the Orlando City Council, with the support of Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The Domestic Partner Registry establishes a registry that defines a domestic partnership, which in this case refers to an unmarried couple who live together in a committed relationship. Florida does not allow same-sex marriage, or recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
The registry provides certain legal rights to these gay and lesbian couples, outlines the registration process and provides an overview of protections provided within a domestic partnership that has been recognized by the city of Orlando.
Those protections include hospital visitation, the right of one partner to make health care decisions for another, correctional facility visitations, the right to make funeral or burial decisions, and the right of both domestic partners to participate in the education of their children.
Dyer, Sheehan and members of Orlando’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee will be on hand Thursday at the City Clerk’s Office on the second floor of City Hall to see the registry go into effect and to mark the event with a celebration.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Dyer said this is going to be a proud, moving and historic day for the city. He noted that since the council approved the registry last month, his office has fielded a flood of calls, all of them positive and supportive of the concept.
“I have been incredibly moved by the many calls we’ve received,” Dyer said. “I’m really proud of this council and really proud of this city and the progress we’ve made.”
There is a $30 fee to sign up with the new registry, which allows 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.
Orlando now becomes the first city in Central Florida to adopt a domestic partners registry.
Sheehan said it was enormously rewarding to see her city make this historic step.
“I thank you for your support,” she said. “This really means a lot to me and my family.”
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