Domestic partnership bill introduced in Florida

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Florida Sen. Eleanor Sobel has introduced the Families First bill to extend legal protections to same-sex couples in the Sunshine State.

Sobel said, 

“This bill makes a lasting change in the lives of many Florida families. By keeping couples together through affording them the same equal rights, we are supporting Florida families.”

She added, “A majority of Americans support extending benefits to couples in domestic partnerships. We cannot allow Florida to be the last state to treat all of its citizens fairly and equally. I am committed to sponsoring and fighting for this bill until it is heard, passed, and signed by the governor.”

In Florida, a majority of the population lives in a community with local recognition of domestic partnerships. Such communities include Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, Volusia County, Orange County, Gainesville, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Gulfport, Tampa and Sarasota.

But the protections are fewer than what would come at the state level.

The sponsor of the partnership bill in the Florida House, Rep. Mark Pafford, said, “It is essential that the Florida Legislature approves the Families First Act to give families legal protections provided by a domestic partnership, such as medical decision-making, hospital visitation rights and the use of family medical leave.

“Domestic partnerships greatly benefit couples that have formed long-term, mutually supportive relationships, and in many cases, the partnerships have profound benefits for the children of these couples. The time has come to support all families in Florida, and I remain hopeful that this important legislation advances during Florida’s 2013 lawmaking session that begins in a few weeks.”

The bill states, “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.”

Said Equality Florida public policy director Mallory Wells: “The 'Families First' bill allows for committed couples in Florida to register and get important legal protections for their family.

Florida voters approved an anti-gay constitutional amendment in 2008.