A reader asked me to elaborate on my views regarding Gulfport’s Domestic Partnership Registry. I did, and then decided that I wanted to record my thoughts here as well as for her. Here’s what I said:
Thankfully, Gulfport opted not to maintain a list, so there is no public record of “who might be gay” with their names and addresses. Yes, people can request to see the DPR records for particular people, but since the city does not maintain a formal list, no one can get such a list. Legally, Florida governments cannot be compelled to create a public record, so the clerk does not have to fulfill requests for “everyone who registered” under the DPR so long as the city doesn’t already maintain such a list. This (the lack of a list) is crucial to protect true equal rights; there is no such list of married people. To maintain one of people completing a DPR (and, yes, I know there will be people of all walks on such a list, not just same-sex couples) puts those people (and anyone else living in their homes) at risk for things “legally” married couples do not risk.
2. While I believe a DPR serves as a good stepping stone towards equality, I fear that passage of a DPR will allow politicians to rest on their laurels and not further the cause of full equality for everyone at all times. Likewise, I think that a like-minded community of folks who believe that everyone deserves equal rights should NEVER accept passage of a DPR as an acceptable ALTERNATIVE to marriage equality. As more and more communities pass DPRs, I fear that politicians, craving the conservative vote, will abandon the fight for marriage equality (if they ever vocally supported it) and I do not believe any DPR should serve as an acceptable substitute for the right to grow old with someone you love. A DPR should be a step, not the end game.
3. When Gulfport started discussing a DPR, I started talking to people in town. Some of them believed, erroneously, that Gulfport’s passage of a DPR would give them equal legal parenting, inheritance, healthcare, and other rights… everywhere. I had visions of two people, in love and committed, joining the DPR and doing nothing else, then finding when one of them died that they had no legal protections outside of Gulfport and, in fact, that some things didn’t apply even inside city limits. I’m speaking of things such as financial matters or child custody issues when grandparents don’t live in a city with a DPR or support their child’s choices. I believe it was Vice Mayor Sam Henderson who first suggested including an informational sheet informing registrants that they should still consult with an attorney or financial planner, which would help diffuse some heartbreaking situations.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”