The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved establishing a domestic partner registry Thursday morning. Clearwater's city council was expected to take the same action Thursday night. The city of Gulfport set up a domestic partner registry several weeks ago.
Next up: Possibly the Pinellas County Commission.
"Hopefully by the end of summer or fall, we'd have that registry in place," acting commission chair Ken Welch told FOX 13 News.
Welch said county attorneys are working out logistical details for a system that would be available countywide.
"It would need to be something that needs to be interactive and work whether you walk into a clerk's office in St. Pete or Tarpon Springs," Welch explained. "We ought to be able to handle that through the technology."
Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said a countywide registry makes sense in Pinellas, which has 24 municipalities plus a large unincorporated area.
"It's an easier process when a county has it rather than a patchwork quilt," she said.
Smith said the next move does not negate the value of city registries. "I think it's important that these communities pass it to send a signal -- this is time."
Domestic partner registries provide legal recognition to couples who are not recognized as "married" under Florida law. That includes gay couples and unwed sexually straight couples because Florida does not recognize common law marriages.
Once registered, both partners will have parental rights in public schools, visitation rights at correctional facilities, the right to make medical decisions for incapacitated partners and the right to make final arrangements if one dies.
Smith said resistance has been minimal in city after city.
"Basically everyone agrees you ought to be able to hold your loved one's hand in the hospital, you shouldn't be denied access, you should be notified in an emergency, you shouldn't be treated like a legal stranger," she said.
Ultimately, activists would like a statewide registry. Gulfport City Commissioner Barbara Banno, who spoke Thursday at St. Petersburg's public hearing , said, "City by city and county by county, we are sending a strong message to the state for equality for everybody."
Banno also praised the St. Petersburg ordinance for a reciprocity provision. That means couples registered in Gulfport will be acknowledged by St. Petersburg medical facilities.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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