Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Hillsborough County's rejection of domestic registry squashes equality

Perhaps nothing gets all that sackcloth in a Gordian Knot of a wad than the prospect of gay folks being granted civil union rights by way of a domestic registry. Oh, The Birdcage of it all!

Thus it was that a harrumphing Hillsborough County Commission, in full macho John Wayne mode, recently rejected a proposal pushed by Commissioner Mark Sharpe to implement a countywide domestic registry as if a yea vote would have led to locusts and frogs descending from the heavens.

About the only thing missing from the vote was a Gregorian chant in the background.

It might be worth noting that 18 jurisdictions in Florida, including Pinellas, Orange and Miami-Dade counties, as well as Tampa have all created domestic registries and not one person has been turned into a pillar of salt as a result.

Days ago, a long-standing effort by state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, to create a statewide domestic partnership registry once again failed to gain any traction.

This was a big surprise? Hardly. After all, no one would ever confuse the Florida Legislature, nor the Hillsborough County Commission, with the Age of Enlightenment.

It was during the hand-wringing over Sharpe's domestic partnership effort that local political gadfly Terry Kemple, the Elmer Gantry of Brandon, wailed that the creation of the registry might lead to (gasp!) the legalization of gay marriage, not to mention a proliferation of interior designers.

A simple question for Kemple. So what?

Really. So what if Tom and Jim, or Mary and Betty could get legally hitched? What remote impact would two committed adults who love each other have on the institution of marriage, which is so hypocritically held as sacrosanct that about half of all unions between heterosexual couples wind up in divorce court?

The benefits derived from having a domestic partnership registry are pretty simple — and humane. Both same sex and unmarried straight couples would merely be given the same extended rights as married couples with respect to health benefits, hospital visitation and medical decision-making. Not exactly plagues of boil-inducing stuff here.

Yet the forces of fear and ignorance managed to hector the commission and the Legislature into thinking the creation of a domestic registry will somehow turn the state into Project Runway meets the Bravo network?

But the spineless fervor to kow-tow to the Good Book-thumping cabal comes with a price.

Tallahassee and the County Commission ought to cast a wary eye toward Jacksonville for an object lesson on the consequences wrought by slack-jawed homophobia.

Last summer, the Jacksonville City County voted down an antidiscrimination ordinance. Yes, an elected body of pols rejected a measure that simply said: Discrimination — bad, suggesting the city motto ought to be "Jacksonville — Partying Like It's 1861."

At the time of the vote, Pantheon Chemical was considering moving its corporate headquarters to Jacksonville. After the council struck a blow for bigotry, the company crossed the city off its list.

What company with a diverse employee profile would want to subject its workers to a community infused with intolerance aided and abetted by its elected officials? Is anyone listening on the Hillsborough County Commission?

Or perhaps put another way — does it even register?

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