FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Jan. 11, 2012)
Joe Saunders, Field Director, (407) 497-4986
Brian Winfield, Communications Director (727) 488-7799
Media Statement by Equality Florida Field Director Joe Saunders who is based in Orlando
Domestic Partnership Registries Provide Strongest Protections
Community Leaders Applaud Commissioners Support;
Encourage Mayor to Keep an Open Mind
Equality Florida applauds the majority of Orange County commissioners who favor a countywide domestic partnership registry. We thank those who spoke out during yesterday’s County Commission meeting and we hold out hope that Mayor Jacobs will join them in recognizing that a registry is the only way to provide the enforceable access to a range of essential protections for gay couples including hospital visitation, health insurance coverage and even funeral arrangements.
Community leaders in Orange County have worked closely over the past year with Mayor Teresa Jacobs to provide important protections and benefits. She has been an advocate for a countywide anti-discrimination law passed in 2011 and was a leading proponent of the County’s domestic partnership benefits policy passed last year that covers county employees.
Mayor Jacobs has proven herself willing to do the right thing for gay and lesbian families. It’s this history that makes her announcement Monday that she would back away from a county domestic partnership registry so troubling.
The idea being floated by the mayor of a “beneficiary agreement” is inadequate in providing legal protections for gay couples, it has no enforcement power and can be ignored by hospitals, schools and other places where relationship recognition is essential.
No committed couple should ever have to worry about their relationship being questioned in an emergency or whether they’ll be called when their partner is in a life-threatening accident. No parent should have to worry if they’ll get critical information about a child they’re raising with a domestic partner. In her short tenure, Mayor Jacobs has proven herself to be a bold leader, unafraid to buck the status the quo when challenged to do the right thing. As we continue dialogue about the best way to protect Orange County’s many LGBT families, we hope to see the same commitment to fairness, good government and honest dialogue that defined her first year in office.
For 15 years, Equality Florida has drawn on the expertise of policy experts from across the country to advise local governments in Florida on the very best ways to fill dangerous gaps in protections for unmarried couples, gay and straight alike.
Domestic partnership registries are the best way for local governments to create the strongest protections for gay and straight families. We continue to encourage Orange County leaders to model their policy after registries created in Florida communities like Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, Gainesville and, as of tomorrow, Orlando.
We are glad the Mayor has stated she will not stand in the way of a county vote on the full registry and we hold out hope that a sober assessment of what is at stake will cause her to reaffirm her support and vote accordingly.
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.