A step for couples' rights in Pinellas

Published Jan. 11, 2013

Within a matter of days, unmarried gay and heterosexual couples living in Pinellas County are expected to begin enjoying the same basic rights over their financial and medical affairs as married couples. The Pinellas County Commission is expected to vote Tuesday to approve a domestic partnership registry.

The countywide registry will make it easier for gay and heterosexual couples to move throughout Pinellas County without fear of leaving their rights behind. The registry is a commonsense realization that the basic rights of domestic life should extend to every committed couple, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

Under the terms of the new ordinance, after paying a $50 registry fee, couples over the age of 18 in a domestic partnership can visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions for each other if one is incapacitated, receive notification in case of an emergency and attend parent-teacher conferences. Domestic registries already in place in Gulfport, Clearwater and St. Petersburg will be grandfathered into the countywide ordinance with no additional fee charged to couples.

Pinellas now joins Miami-Dade, Leon, Orange, Broward and Palm Beach with countywide domestic partnership registries. Tampa has a domestic registry. Still lagging behind, Hillsborough County does not. The rest of Florida's counties should follow Pinellas in creating domestic partner registries to ensure the equal rights of every citizen.