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South Miami approves benefits for domestic partners

BY LAURA MORALES, The Miami Herald

When South Miami Mayor Horace Feliu and Commissioner Valerie Newman are on the same page, you know the issue transcends politics.

At Tuesday's meeting, most commissioners voted to allow city employees' domestic partners, whether straight or gay, to enjoy the same benefits and rights an employee's spouse would get.

Newman and Feliu co-sponsored the ordinance, with Vice Mayor Brian Beasley and Commissioner Lew Sellars voting in its favor. Commissioner Velma Palmer cast the lone vote against it.

The benefits include hospital visitation rights and healthcare coverage.

Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the measure at their Dec. 8 meeting.

``This has been a long time coming,'' Newman said at the time. ``We're a progressive city. We can't sit in judgment of the relationships people choose to have.''

With the vote, South Miami joins Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as the cities of Miami, Miami Beach and North Miami in recognizing domestic partnerships.

Resident Frank Cuzzocrea praised the commissioners' choice and thanked them for ``doing the right thing. Forty-three years ago my marriage would not have been legal because of laws that prevented interracial marriage,'' he said.

In order to receive benefits, employees and partners must file a domestic partnership declaration with the Miami-Dade Consumer Services Department. ``There will be no drain on our staff,'' Newman said.

Feliu, who signed on to co-sponsor the measure after Newman first proposed it, said he was proud to vote in its favor. ``This is about fairness,'' he said.

Palmer declined to discuss her reasons for opposing the ordinance. ``I just voted my conscience,'' she said.

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