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Orlando expects strong turnout for same-sex domestic partner registry


ORLANDO, Fla. — Gay rights advocates expect a strong turnout of same-sex couples at Orlando’s City Hall when the city’s new domestic-partnership registry opens next month.

The registry, which takes effect Jan. 12, will extend vital legal protections to gay and lesbian families.

The Orlando City Council voted unanimously Dec. 12 to enact the domestic partnership registry, as the city became the first in Central Florida to recognize relationships of same-sex couples.

Couples who record their relationships in the registry are entered in a government database and then can visit each other in the hospital or jail, make health-care decisions for an incapacitated partner and plan a partner’s funeral.

Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan pushed for the registry, noting that same-sex couples are often barred from seeing their partners during medical emergencies because state law doesn’t recognize them as family. Gay people are sometimes unable to execute a partner’s funeral plans for the same reason.

“It’s not as many rights as marriage, but it helps couples during very difficult times,” Sheehan said.

The registry only applies to hospitals and other institutions in Orlando. Still, people who live outside the city are allowed to sign up.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said he expects some non-residents to do that because anyone in Central Florida could at some point be a patient at Orlando Health or Florida Hospital, the region’s two biggest hospitals — both hospitals are in Orlando and thus required to treat registered partners as family members.

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