Equality Florida reports that Sen. Eleanor Sobel (Hallandale Beach) has introduced a statewide Domestic Partnership bill (SB 1642).
The introduction of the bill comes at a time when public support is at an all time high for this legislation. The latest polls show 77% of Floridians in favor of extending benefits to unmarried couples.
It also comes as a South Florida hospital is embroiled in a lawsuit for refusing to grant a woman access to her partner as she lay dying at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The case has provoked international outrage and highlights the vulnerability gay couples face when there is no legal framework to protect their families.
If passed, this bill would ensure committed, unmarried couples throughout Florida have access to basic legal rights like visiting each other in the hospital.
Many places in Florida already understand the importance of offering domestic partner protections. Miami Dade County enacted domestic partner benefits in the past year, as did the cities of Sarasota and Orlando.
Senator Ted Deutch (Delray Beach) has introduced a Civil Rights bill that would make it illegal to fire someone, deny them housing or access to public accommodations because they are LGBT. Florida is one of thirty states where it is legal to discriminate in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Rep. Kelly Skidmore (Boca Raton) has already introduced the House version (HB 397) and Equality Florida is continuing to build on the twenty co-sponsors already signed up.
It is against current Florida law to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or familial status. These bills would add sexual orientation and gender identity to already protected classes.