Florida victories hailed as progress for same sex couples

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Two Florida municipalities passed ordinances recently that make employee healthcare benefits available to same-sex domestic partners. On Sept. 7, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission unanimously passed a resolution to cover health insurance for domestic partners of employees.

Miriam Richter, a self-employed attorney and 17-year partner of a Fort Lauderdale employee, lead the charge to extend the benefits. After her medical insurance coverage ended last November, and an unsuccessful search for her own plan, Richter decided, "it was about time that the City of Fort Lauderdale got into the 21st century," she said on the LGBT website Watermarkonline.com.

Richter met with Mayor Jack Seiler who asked her to put together a cost analysis report of adding domestic partners to the city's healthcare plan, which was submitted in July. With City Manager Lee Feldman seeing minimal impact on the city's plan, the commission drafted the domestic partner resolution, which goes into effect January 1.
The City of St. Cloud approved a similar ordinance Sept. 8. In a 3-2 vote, St. Cloud joined three other Central Florida governments (Kissimmee, Orlando, and Orange County) that provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners, which goes into effect Oct. 1.

"Under the new policy, city employees will be able to include their domestic partners on their city healthcare plan and will be eligible for other vital benefits and protections employee spouses receive," said Joe Saunders, field director of Equality Florida, an advocacy organization for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, on the groups website. "Tonight's victory is one more sign that Osceola County and all of Florida are moving in the direction of equality. I think it's a marker of progress," he said.

On the heels of these victories, State Rep. Mark Pafford (D) and State Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D) introduced the Florida Domestic Partnerships Act on Monday, Sept. 12. This bill will ensure that those in a domestic partnership receive the same benefits and responsibilities as those who are married.

"Equality Florida has done a remarkable job of getting these provisions approved in places like Ft. Lauderdale; St. Cloud; Tallahassee; Miami-Dade and Orange counties," said Sobel in a press release."Now it's time to ensure this basic fairness all across our state."

Photo: Carol Anastasio, left, and Mimi Brown of New York embrace during their marriage ceremony at the New York City clerk's office July 24. City officials had expected that 2,500 couples might show up at the clerk's office to marry Sunday, but by the time the 48-hour lottery closed the Thursday before, 823 couples had signed up. The city had planned to accommodate only 764 but vowed to perform ceremonies for all of the waiting couples.

(Craig Ruttle/AP Photo)

 

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