State Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Fort Lauderdale) introduced the “Families First” bill (SB 196), which would extend legal protections to same-sex couples, including hospital visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for a partner.
“This bill makes a lasting change in the lives of many Florida families. By keeping couples together through affording them the same equal rights, we are supporting Florida families,” said Sobel.
“A majority of Americans support extending benefits to couples in Domestic Partnerships. We cannot allow Florida to be the last state to treat all of its citizens fairly and equally. I am committed to sponsoring and fighting for this bill until it is heard, passed, and signed by the governor,” she said.
SB 196 comes at a time when public support for gay families is at an all time high, according to Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.
In Florida, a majority of the population already lives in a community that has Domestic Partnerships on the local level, including Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, Volusia County, Orange County, Gainesville, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Gulfport, Tampa and Sarasota.
“It is essential that the Florida Legislature approves the Families First Act to give families legal protections provided by a Domestic Partnership, such as medical decision-making, hospital visitation rights and the use of family medical leave,” said Rep. Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach), who is sponsoring the bill in the House.
Under current Florida law, same-sex marriages, civil unions, and Domestic Partnerships are not recognized. same-sex marriage and civil unions were constitutionally banned on November 6, 2008 with 62 percent of the vote.
The “Families First” bill would provide registered domestic partners the same state-afforded benefits that married couples currently receive.