With widespread bipartisan support from government and community leaders throughout the state, the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs will hear the "Families First" bill on Tuesday, February 19. The bill, introduced by committee chair Senator Eleanor Sobel (D), would allow gay couples and unmarried Floridians access to key legal protections for their families.
Nearly half of Floridians already live in a community that has a domestic partnership registry, including Palm Beach, Pinellas County, Volusia County, Orange County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Key West, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, Tavares, Clearwater and North Miami.
A statewide law would ensure all Floridians access to protections. Leaders who have voiced their support include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (D), St Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster (R), Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D), Kissimmee Commissioner Cheryl Grieb (D), Orange County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson (R), Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe (D), Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie (R), Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower (D). Former elected leaders are weighing in too. Former Orange County Commissioner John Martinez (R), former Gulfport City Council member Bob Worthington (R) and former Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.
The Families First bill will simplify the process for providing important legal protections to domestic partners, no matter where they live in the state.
“In the past year, Florida has seen a wave of support for domestic partner registries – affecting both gay and straight couples – through the passage of legislation in numerous municipalities,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “It is vital that there is a cohesive, statewide policy in place, eliminating obstacles and hardships that no one would want inflicted upon their own family.”
The hearing comes six years to the day that Janice Langbehn’s life partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond, died at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Janice was denied access to visit Lisa, who had collapsed as the couple and their four children prepared to leave for a cruise.
The case drew national attention and eventually prompted President Obama to issue an Executive Memo requiring hospitals that receive Medicaid funding to treat domestic partners as family. The President called Janice from Air Force One to announce the change. That memo makes creating a means to establish a domestic partnership all the more urgent. (In 2011 the President presented Janice, a self-described “accidental activist,” with the Presidential Citizens Medal).
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nadine Smith, Executive Director, Equality Florida
(727) 386-8123 / firstname.lastname@example.org