On an 8-1 vote, the Pensacola City Council Thursday evening approved setting up a domestic partnership registry – or DPR – which will ensure a number of rights to hundreds of unmarried couples.
Sponsored by Councilman Larry B. Johnson, the DPR will be open to cohabiting, unmarried adults — both gay and straight — to register as domestic partners. Those who live outside the Pensacola city limits are also eligible.
After a 90-day preparation window, applications are scheduled to be accepted beginning in March for a fee which – along with other nuts and bolts – will be determined between now and then.
Once the certificates are issued, couples will be authorized to make decisions related to medical and death issues; visitation rights and the raising of children involved in their relationship. The registration also allows for them to be notified in case of an emergency.
Sarah Latshaw with the ACLU of Northwest Florida is one of the organizers of the DPR movement. She calls the vote a “victory for everyone in Pensacola.”
“We are definitely the shining light in the Panhandle as far as this effort is concerned,” said Latshaw.
City Council chambers were filled with supporters Thursday night. To Councilman Larry B. Johnson’s surprise, nobody opposing the ordinance came forward to speak. He says in the 60-day run up to the second reading and final vote, he received only two emails and one phone call against.
Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn cast the lone dissenting vote saying she feels a domestic partnership registry undermines the institution of marriage.
On the strength of Thursday’s City Council vote, Pensacola becomes the first Florida city west of Tallahassee to offer such a registry. Both Councilman Johnson and the ACLU’s Sarah Latshaw hope the vote will create a “reverse domino” effect across the region – starting with the Escambia County Commission.
DPRs already have gained widespread support elsewhere in Florida. They’re available in at least 14 other cities and counties, which house roughly half the state’s 19 million population.
Dave Dunwoody is on Twitter @WUWF_Dave firstname.lastname@example.org