TAMPA — In a historic decision, this city Thursday became the first in the Tampa Bay area to create a registry where unmarried couples can register as domestic partners.
"You're making a statement that Tampa is a welcoming city," R. Zeke Fread, 60, of Palma Ceia said moments before the City Council's unanimous vote. "I've never been so proud to live in Tampa."
Tampa now joins Orlando, Gainesville, West Palm Beach and Key West, as well as the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, with such laws.
Its movement toward the registry has inspired officials in St. Petersburg and Gulfport to consider creating registries of their own.
"I am so very pleased to bring forth this ordinance that represents a small step in bringing dignity and equality to all," said Yvonne Yolie Capin, the council member who proposed Tampa's registry.
But don't rush to City Hall just yet. The city clerk has 90 days to set up the registry.
When it is ready, both same-sex and straight couples from Tampa will be able to sign up.
Still, the ordinance establishing the registry says nothing about it "shall be construed as recognizing or treating a domestic partnership as a marriage."
Tampa's registry will 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 will 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.
While this is the Tampa Bay area's first domestic partnership registry, it follows the similar actions by several local governments.
The city of Tampa, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the St. Petersburg Police Department already offer health benefits to same-sex domestic partners of their employees.
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.