After three hours of debate the morning of Oct. 9, the Sarasota County Commissioners have voted unanimously to hold two public hearings, then vote on a countywide domestic partner registry.

The next meeting is “tentatively scheduled” for Nov. 6, according to Sarasota County spokeswoman Jamie Carson.

The County Commission voted to green light the registry back in June of 2013. Since that time, the County Attorney’s office has been drafting the ordinance.

“It hasn’t been delayed, it’s just an ongoing process,” said Carson. “When they had to develop the ordinance it took a lot of organization.”

At the Oct. 9 meeting, the Commissioners discussed whether to offer the registry to anyone, or limit it to permanent residents of Sarasota County.

“We strongly encourage the County Commissioners to open the registry to anyone, regardless of whether or not they have permanent residency,” said Michael Farmer, statewide field director for Equality Florida. “With such a large community of seniors who make Sarasota their part time home, it’s critical that they be able to access these basic but important rights.”

They also decided to remove parental education rights language.

Several counties throughout Florida have passed similar ordinances and the City of Sarasota did so last year. Couples could register as domestic partners within the City of Sarasota last fall. It’s unclear how those couples would be included in the county’s registry.

In that county, those who registered with the cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater or Gulfport, could pay a slightly smaller fee to be included in the county’s registry.

“The Sarasota County Commission joins a growing bipartisan group of lawmakers who recognize the need for domestic partner registries that protect unmarried couples both gay and straight,” said Farmer.

Abstract photo by Michael Farmer.

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