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Volusia County aims to help LGBT, seniors
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 27, 2012 - 7:03:01am
Last year, the Volusia County Council passed an ordinance to ensure that lesbian, gay, transgender and transsexual people have the same civil rights as anyone else in Volusia County, in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.
At their April 19 meeting, council members told their legal staff to prepare an ordinance that would establish a domestic-partnership registry.
The voluntary registry will give people — regardless of their sexual orientation, marital status or gender — the option to register as partners, ensuring them certain rights in Volusia County.
Among those rights:
• The right to notification during emergency situations. In some cases, only family members would be told about an accident or other emergency.
• The power to make decisions about a partner’s emergency medical treatment or a funeral and burial. Such decisions are usually reserved for family members only.
• The right to participate in a dependent child’s education.
Language in a draft ordinance prepared by the legal staff notes that it’s in the county’s best interest to treat everyone fairly and equitably.
“The County of Volusia recognizes that long-term committed relationships result in strong emotional and psychological bonds,” the draft reads.
While the registry will confer rights to anyone in a committed long-term relationship, the State of Florida recognizes marriage only between a man and a woman.
Larry Glinzman, of Volusia Equality, told the County Council he and his partner just celebrated their 30th anniversary. He said the registry will not benefit only the gay and lesbian community, but will also help senior-citizen couples who don’t want to marry because it would cause them to lose Social Security benefits that are necessary for economic survival.
State Field Director Joe Saunders of Equality Florida said he represents hundreds of unmarried families “right here in Volusia County.” He said wills, trusts and powers of attorney are “just not sufficient” for domestic partners, because they are subject to legal challenges.
The U.S. Census lists around 1,100 same-sex households in Volusia County.
George Griffin of the American Civil Liberties Union said creating the registry will show Volusia County is “an inclusive place,” like Orlando and Tampa, which have passed similar ordinances.
“Unfortunately, Florida has a reputation for intolerance, yet there are cities, there are counties taking very progressive steps to say that’s not who we are,” Griffin said.
A final draft of the ordinance will come up for County Council members’ review during the Thursday, May 17, council meeting.
Council Member Josh Wagner, who has been a supporter of civil rights for gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual people, made the motion to ask the legal staff to proceed with preparing the ordinance. Council Member Joyce Cusack seconded the motion.
It passed 6-1, with Council Member Joie Alexander dissenting. Alexander said the measure is “duplicative,” and the rights it would confer are already in place.
Later, Glinzman said he’s happy with the County Council’s decision.
“Most of them weren’t aware the biggest issue wasn’t for gay and lesbians; it was for the senior contingent,” he said.
Registering for a domestic-partnership certificate will cost partners $50.
“I’m going to get into an elbowing contest to get the first one,” Glinzman said.
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