Florida State Senator Eleanor Sobel filed a statewide bill on January 9 that would allow citizens of the state to enter into domestic partnerships.  State Bill 196, which is known as the Families First bill, offers a way for non-married as well as LGBT couples to be legally recognized.

As it stands currently in the State of Florida, atypical couples as well as non-married couples have no legal relationship.  Sobel’s bill would give same-sex couples and non-married couples the same benefits married couples receive, such as hospital visitation rights and other medical decision making responsibilities. 

Although some counties and cities in Florida do have domestic partnerships, statewide there is no policy that covers domestic partnerships.  Those counties that legally recognize same-sex couples are Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties.  Eleven cities in the state also offer some sort of legal recognition for domestic partners.

According to Sarah Warbelow, the State Legislative Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the state of Florida needs to step up to the plate and tackle the issue to ensure non-discrimination.  She reported  a poll by the Human Rights Campaign has shown that 80 percent of Americans support non-discrimination rights for the LGBT community.  However, only fifty percent support marriage equality for the LGBT community.

Mallory Wells, the Public Policy director of Equality Florida, stated equality is an American value, and added, “We’ve seen over the last few years a big increase in the way America recognizes same-sex relationships and LGBT citizens culturally.”

Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry’s founder and president, explained that “until DOMA is overturned and Florida’s gay couples are allowed to marry,  statewide domestic partnership would be a good step to provide those important protections and responsibilities that are denied to those families because of the exclusion from marriage.”

Senator Sobel’s Families First bill would be a step in the right direction for equal rights for all of Florida’s LGBT citizens.

Original story can be found here.