The proposal was brought forth by Council member Yolie Capin, who told CL after the meeting that she had been thinking of bringing the issue up for awhile, but was inspired to do so after the city of Orlando passed an ordinance in December and enacted it last month.
For a $30 fee, unmarried residents in Orlando, whether gay or straight, can be eligible for visitation rights in hospitals and jails, as well as make heath care and funeral decisions. They must be at least 18 years old, unmarried, competent, must co-habitate, and have joint financial dependency. The Orlando Business Journal reported that business groups backed the venture because it will help to attract and retain employees.
Earlier this week the mayor of Orange County, which encompasses Orlando, announced that the county should follow the city in enacting a similar ordinance. Seven local governments in Florida currently have such a registry.
Speaking to CL at a fundraising luncheon for the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County, Capin said the main objective of the ordinance would be to allow visitation rights at hospitals for domestic partners, as well as the right to take part in "family decisions, funeral decisions — those are things that take place in every family."
Saying Tampa is the economic and political engine of the Tampa Bay region and thus should be a leader, Capin emphasized that her measure was in no way critical of marriage. "It's another way that people live in today's world."
Five other council members agreed to her proposal. Council members Frank Reddick and Charlie Miranda were absent when the vote took place. (Update: this original post reported only four other members agreed).
Tampa has been relatively progressive on LGBT issues, much more so than Hillsborough County. In Orlando and Orange County, such legislation has had an easier time, in many ways because of corporations like Disney that have tremendous clout at the local government level.
Nadine Smith with Equality Florida says the city of Tampa is doing the right thing. "Domestic partnership policies provide a handful of vital protections that are critical for couples at the most vulnerable times in their life, " she wrote CL in an email. "In taking this step, Tampa will join communities across the state who recognize that people need the legal rights necessary to take care of their loved ones."
The city's legal department will come back with language crafted for an ordinance at the Council's March 15 meeting.