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Domestic partnership proposed in new Florida Senate bill

Domestic Partnership
Posted at 10:33 AM, Jan 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-19 10:40:52-05

This story was updated on February 19, 2013 at 3:38:

Fla. domestic partnership bill stalls in committee


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- Despite a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Florida, gay couples could soon enter into domestic partnerships.

That's what's proposed in "Senate Bill 196: Families First" filed January 9 by Florida state Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood). If passed, it would also extend some marital benefits to same-sex couples across Florida.

The bill states, in part: "The state has a strong interest in promoting stable and lasting families, and believes that all families should be provided with the opportunity to obtain necessary legal protections and status and the ability to achieve their fullest potential."

Currently it's up to local governments to decide whether to allow domestic partnership registration. Orlando is one city in Florida that allows it.

In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The text of Senate Bill 196 says it is not aimed at altering the constitutional definition of marriage in Florida as being between "one man and one woman". However, the bill states its intent is to "provide an alternative mechanism for extending certain important rights and responsibilities to individuals who choose to form long-term, mutually supporting relationship."

Rights that mirror those given to married couples.

Other measures in the bill include redefining the term "family or household member" in the context of domestic violence to include domestic partnership.

While it is not new, the legislation does come at a time when there is renewed conversation, and growing support, about equal rights and gay marriage.

The United States Supreme Court is expected to take up oral arguments in March on the issue of gay marriage. In May 2012, President Obama told ABC's Robin Roberts that he supports gay marriage, becoming the first sitting president to publicly support same-sex marriage.

Last fall, Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) and Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami) became the first two openly gay lawmakers sworn into office in the Florida House of Representatives.

On the issue of gay marriage, a Quinnipiac University Poll, published in December 2012, shows that Florida voters are changing their minds about same-sex marriage.

"They opposed this idea 50 - 40 percent in a May 23 Quinnipiac University Poll. Today, voters are divided with 43 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. Men are opposed 48 - 40 percent while women are divided with 45 percent supporting same-sex marriage and 43 percent opposed," the poll states.