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Clearwater expected to approve domestic partnership registry tonight

CLEARWATER — The City Council will likely approve a domestic partnership registry tonight, joining a growing group of cities granting rights to unmarried couples.

Clearwater would become the third city in Tampa Bay, behind Tampa and Gulfport and ahead of St. Petersburg, to craft its own program.

The registry would grant unrelated adult couples living together, regardless of gender or sexual preference, several basic rights once reserved for married couples.

Domestic partners could visit each other in the hospital, decide on health care and funeral arrangements, participate in a partner's child's education and be notified as a family member during an emergency.

The council is expected to give initial approval to the registry today and final approval June 7. Couples could begin registering the next day at City Hall. Registration will cost $30.

Over the past three months, Tampa Bay's three biggest cities have all voiced overwhelming support for the registries, which also have been approved in Orlando, Gainesville and West Palm Beach.

Clearwater officials say the registry could attract "companies that value diversity," promote the city and help the growing number of local unmarried partners, a term that includes same-sex couples but excludes roommates.

Unmarried partners accounted for 7 percent of Clearwater's 45,000 households in 2010, according to U.S. Census data. That percentage, a slight increase since 2000, is higher than the national average.

Following other cities, Clearwater is making it clear that partnerships are not marriages. In 2008, a wide majority of Florida voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage.

Nearly all public talk of the registry has been positive, with Mayor George Cretekos saying last month that the registry is important, right and "the decent thing for us to do."

Public response has been quiet but encouraging. An example: In March, one Island Estates resident wrote the city, saying, "It's time Clearwater moved into the 21st Century."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@tampabay.com. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.

Clearwater expected to approve domestic partnership registry tonight 05/16/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 7:29pm]
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