Unmarried couples, gay and straight, in Pinellas County will be able to register as domestic partners following Tuesday's vote by county commissioners, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The legal recognition will give couples the right to visit each other in the emergency room, make health care decisions for each other in a crisis and, depending on their employers, share health insurance coverage, the Times reports. Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve the registry, with Norm Roche casting the dissenting vote.
The Times story notes that residents of Gulfport, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, where domestic partnership registries are already in place, the planned $50 fee will be reduced. Those residents will only have to pay the difference between their cities' fees and the county's fee.
The law takes effect in 10 days, although officials said it will probably be about 90 days before they are ready to open registration for couples.
Safety Harbor city leaders addressed the issue at a recent city commission meeting.
Commissioner Nancy Besore said she was very much in favor of the registry and asked if they could draw up a letter of support of the issue; city manager Matt Spoor said it was too late in the process to draft an official resolution, but they could write a letter in support of the county's initiative.
But Mayor Joe Ayoub expressed discomfort with the whole idea of individual communities drafting different opinions on certain laws.
"Andy Steingold talked about doing a resolution supporting banning texting while driving in Safety Harbor," Ayoub said.
"While I support a ban on texting while driving, my thought was it made sense to do it from the state down so you don't have a hodgepodge of different communities with different laws."
What's your take, Harborites? Should domestic partners be granted rights that are now only granted to men and women who are married? Did Pinellas County make the right move? Post a comment below.