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Registry would benefit Fla. economy, UCF area

By Aubrey Marks
On March 1, 2012

Many people consider LGBT rights to be the defining civil rights issue of our generation. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the full legalization of gay marriage. From Washington to New Jersey, people are demanding that gay marriages and domestic partnerships be recognized. Our own Student Government Association Senate even passed a resolution last April in support of domestic partnership benefits for employees at UCF.

Now it is Orange County's turn. Last week, the Orange County Commission voted to move forward with the proposal to adopt the City of Orlando's domestic partnership registry that was set up in December.

A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two people who have committed to spend their lives together but aren't legally joined in a civil union or a marriage. The registry allows these couples to register their relationship as a domestic partnership, which gives the couple certain basic rights that are commonly associated with marriage – such as a hospital and jail visitation rights. While most people associate domestic partnerships with the LGBT community, straight couples can also register their relationships as a domestic partnership as well.

Orlando's ordinance detailing the legal aspects of their domestic partnership registry gives couples the following rights: healthcare facility visitation, healthcare decisions, correctional facility visitation, preneed guardian resignation, funeral and burial decisions, notification of family members and participation in education. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs still holds some reservations on the last three provisions on that list, according to WMFE News.

With same-sex marriage banned in Florida, Orange County needs this domestic partnership registry for many reasons. For one, the registry would help protect the many families in Orange County that are not married. Gay and straight unmarried couples would be able to have basic rights that would allow them to visit their loved ones in the hospital or make healthcare decisions in emergency situations.

On the economic side of things, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Frank Santos, the CFO of Rosen Hotels and Resorts, told Jacobs that a domestic partnership registry would give Orange County a "critical competitive advantage over regions and employers who have yet to acknowledge the serious gaps in protections for unmarried gay and straight families."

Additionally, the Orange County domestic partnership registry should adhere to the same seven provisions that the City of Orlando's domestic partnership registry holds. Those last three rights are essential in protecting families who are not bonded by marriage.

The UCF community will certainly benefit from Orange County's domestic partnership registry as well. Those who wish to can register their relationship as a domestic partnership both with Orange County and the City of Orlando, and no matter if they are gay or straight, gain those basic rights that are commonly associated with marriage. Additionally, those who register their relationship as a domestic partnership will be able to gain benefits from their employers.

The vote to move forward the proposal of having a domestic partnership registry is a great step for Orange County and the LGBT community. If all goes well, the domestic partnership registry is expected to be opened by this spring or summer.

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