Email from Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida:
Moments ago the Florida Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs passed the “Families First” bill (SB 196).
By a margin of 5 to 4, the Senate committee voted to move closer to creating a statewide domestic partnership registry (DPR) that would provide essential legal protections for unmarried couples including hospital visitation, correctional facility visitation, end of life decision making and burial arrangements.
A majority of Floridians already live in a local community that has a domestic partnership registry. Places like Pinellas County, Volusia County, Orange County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Key West, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, Tavares, Clearwater and North Miami already have registries. The Families First bill would eliminate the patchwork of policies and allow people to have important legal protections for their family, no matter where they live.
The bill passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans and its success combined with the strong bipartisan sponsorship of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act signals a new day in Florida. The country is changing and so is Florida. This vote is a reflection of the change in public opinion favoring legal equality for all Florida couples. Our political leaders are finally listening to the pain inflicted on couples who are treated as legal strangers. And they are listening to the growing voice of business leaders who are calling for statewide protections that will help them attract and retain a diverse workforce.
Local Domestic Partnership Registries now protect roughly 50% of Florida's population. The protections are vital especially since the state has a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.
Senator Sobel has championed this bill and told her fellow committee members "Today we made history." The bill now moves on to the next committee.
Thank you to the thousands of supporters all across the state who have called and emailed the committee urging their support and to the hundreds who have traveled to Tallahassee to testify and speak with your legislators