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Hillsborough Domestic Partner Registry Talk Resurfaces, Sinks

Instead of a registry, the commission is considering making legal documents affording some rights more readily available to residents.

Carrollwood and Northdale residents living together in committed relationships without the bonds of marriage tying them together won’t be able to join a registry that affords them some rights to make decisions for each other.

The Hillsborough County Commission, instead, has decided to make it easier for same-sex and other unwed couples to file the legal papers needed to afford them some decision-making rights.

The idea to create a packet of legal documents that reflect laws already on the books in regard to medical surrogacy and other major life decisions was brought up by Commissioner Al Higginbotham during the commission’s March 20 meeting.

Higginbotham wants the county to create a packet of documents for residents to easily access online and at libraries throughout the county. The documents, such as medical power of attorney, and others would still have to be filed by residents with the court system to be applicable. Residents might also have to hire legal counsel to file the papers.

Higginbotham’s move comes on the heels of a January meeting where the county considered creating a domestic partnership registry. Such a registry would afford unwed couples the ability to make some medical and financial decisions for each other.

The registry was shot down by commissioners in January.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who voted in favor of a registry, said he appreciated Higginbotham’s attention to the matter. He, however, doesn’t think a packet goes far enough.

“There is more work we can do on this,” Beckner said during Wednesday’s meeting. “(We can) work together and come to a common solution in a bipartisan way.”

Beckner offered up an alternative motion that would have reopened the discussion about a domestic partnership registry.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who brought up the registry idea initially, agreed with Beckner about Higginbotham’s proposal.

“A part of a right is not a whole right,” said Sharpe, referring to the fact a registry would provide more freedoms for couples than existing laws do. “This should be very simple for all of us. It’s a straightforward domestic partnership registry. I wish we’d do it and be done with it.”

Despite Sharpe’s support, Beckner’s motion died in the water.

Higginbotham’s, however, was approved in a 4 to 3 vote. Beckner, Les Miller and Mark Sharpe opposed it.

Now, the County Attorney’s Office has been tasked with creating a packet of documents that reflect laws already on the books for easy distribution to residents.

The matter should resurface sometime in April.

So what do you think Carrollwood and Northdale? Is this a step in the right director? Or do you agree with Beckner that providing documents doesn’t go far enough? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

See Also:

  • Domestic Partner Registry: Should Hillsborough Reconsider?
  • Domestic Partnership Registry: Should Florida Have One?
  • Hillsborough Says 'No' to Domestic Partnership Registry
  • Al Higginbotham: Have Recent Votes Hurt His Chances?

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