CLEARWATER — Following the example of Tampa, Clearwater is poised to create its own domestic partnership registry.
The registry would be designed to ensure that unmarried couples can visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions and funeral arrangements for each other. It would be open to heterosexual and same-sex couples.
"I think it's the right thing for us to do. I think it's the decent thing for us to do," Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said Monday, when he raised the subject at a City Council work session.
"I really don't see any downside to this," added council member Bill Jonson.
The mayor suggested that Clearwater follow the model of Tampa, which created such a registry earlier this month. Tampa's decision didn't cause any controversy there.
Cretekos, like Tampa officials, said the registry is not an attempt to legalize gay marriage; in fact, the ordinance establishing Tampa's registry says that nothing about it "shall be construed as recognizing or treating a domestic partnership as a marriage."
Like Tampa's registry, Clearwater's would be open to couples of two people who are 18 or older, are not married and not related by blood, who live together and consider each other as immediate family. It would recognize their ability to:
• Visit each other in health care facilities in the city.
• Make medical decisions for a partner who is incapacitated.
• Make funeral arrangements for each other.
• Be notified as a family member in an emergency involving a partner.
• Participate in the education of the child of a domestic partner.
Tampa was the first city in the Tampa Bay area to create such a registry. Its move has inspired St. Petersburg and Gulfport to begin looking into the idea.
Statewide, Orlando, Gainesville, West Palm Beach and Key West, as well as the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, already have similar laws.
The Clearwater City Council didn't take a vote on the domestic partnership registry Monday, and the subject won't be on the agenda at the council's regular meeting Thursday night. Instead, the council asked city staff to draw up an ordinance they can vote on in the near future.
Once the registry is approved, partners would register by going to the Clearwater clerk's office at City Hall, where they would have to present a driver's license or other state-issued identification so their signatures could be notarized. They would pay a nominal fee to cover the cost of keeping the registry.
While the registry would be open to anyone, the catch is that registration would only apply inside the city limits.
Regarding visitation in hospitals and health care facilities, Clearwater's registry would obviously affect Morton Plant Hospital more than any other location.
"They are comfortable with us going forward," Cretekos said of Morton Plant. "I think this is important for us to do."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. Send letters to the editor at tampabay.com/letters.