Thursday, April 26, 2018
Politics

Sue Carlton: Domestic partner registries quietly signal progress

Sometimes when we are busy paying attention to the assorted scandals and outrages of the day, there are signs our world might be quietly evolving. Our cities, even.

In Tampa, a registry to allow people who live together to name each other as important players in case of illness or death passed the City Council and was promptly signed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn with nary a ripple. Gulfport and Clearwater, too.

Maybe you're thinking: You need a registry for this? Just because you are half of an unmarried couple, gay or straight, you must state for the record who you want notified if you are hurt or sick, who can visit you in the hospital, and who should be part of your end-of-life decisions and beyond?

Even though it's pretty clear who your significant other is?

Yes. In a world where that kind of basic humanity isn't always automatic when there is no marriage license involved, apparently we do.

St. Petersburg was hot on Tampa's heels last week with a registry of its own, "a no-brainer," Mayor Bill Foster called it.

The cynical among us might say these registries get an easy ride because they benefit not just gay couples but straight ones, too. But I'll take progress in small steps.

Foster is a conservative Christian, but compared with the previous mayor, more supportive of his city's signature gay and lesbian St. Pete Pride event. He attends related events and writes a welcome in the program. He does not, however, sign a city proclamation, mentioning the parade's "very adult theme."

But Foster also says this: "Tampa Bay is better for it, I think, when you're viewed as an inclusive community and when you celebrate your diversity."

Progress? No less than the president of the United States has said officially, out loud and for the world to hear, that he supports gay marriage, as in: letting people marry whom they want to.

But progress can get messy.

Only two of seven Hillsborough County commissioners signed a proclamation to support the GaYbor Days festivities in Ybor City. (Here's your glimpse of one difference between city and county folk: Tampa officials signed without thinking twice.)

Mark Sharpe, a non-signer who considers himself a conservative, nonetheless sent a letter of support to GaYbor business district organizers. This got him accused of playing politics. Maybe he was just trying.

Like other commissioners who declined to proclaim, he later pointed to a GaYbor brochure passed at a commission meeting. It included useful information about the cool business district, some nice pictures of historic Ybor and somebody's really cute dog, and also two apparently naked women making out and a man who had all but lost his skimpy swimsuit. Sharpe told me if he can't take into a school, he can't support it as an elected official. Hard to argue, though it's too bad commissioners got handed any kind of cover for not signing.

Speaking of political reality, here's a dose: Sharpe plans to support a domestic partner registry. But other commissioners are currently up for re-election. Given the three fighting to keep their seats, and a potentially controversial issue in the county, it may have to wait until after election day to have a prayer of passing.

We may progress around here, but no one ever accused us of doing it fast.

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