Florida Representative Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) this week introduced House Bill 139, legislation designed to give unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as marriage. State Senator Eleanor Sobel, (D-Hollywood), also introduced a counterpart measure in the state Senate.
Following the bill’s introduction Pafford released a statement in which he said that to remain competitive in the jobs market Florida must consider giving the full range of rights to those who are unmarried:
“It is only sensible that we do all we can to attract and retain the best and brightest to work in Florida and to grow businesses here,” said Representative Pafford. “By recognizing domestic partnerships, we will take a leap forward in improving our economy and the manner in which our residents are treated. It makes good economic sense, it is sound personnel policy, and it is the right thing to do.”
Nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies and a majority of Florida’s universities offer domestic partner benefits in order to attract and retain the best and brightest employees. The Domestic Partnerships Act would grant individuals in a domestic partnership the same benefits and responsibilities currently available through marriage.
LGBT rights groups in the state have praised this move as a positive first step toward, with Florida Equality saying:
Florida currently ranks 7th in the nation, with 6.7 million people living in communities that recognize domestic partnerships. Rep. Pafford’s bill would make these protections and responsibilities available to all couples statewide.
“Equality Florida is proud to work with Rep. Pafford and Sen. Sobel to provide these important protections to Florida’s domestic partners, gay and straight,” said Mallory Wells, public policy director for Equality Florida. “Equality Florida has also been working with municipalities across the state, as well as private employers, including Pepsico, Citi Bank, BlueCross BlueShield of Florida and Wells Fargo, who offer domestic partner benefits because they recognize that workplace inequities create obstacles to attracting and retaining top talent.”
The Domestic Partnerships Act would grant individuals in a domestic partnership the same benefits and responsibilities currently available through marriage.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 166, is sponsored by Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood). “I’m proud to have filed this bill over the past three years to draw attention to disparities in the workplace.
Equality Florida has done a remarkable job getting these provisions approved in places like Ft. Lauderdale; St. Cloud; Tallahassee; Miami-Dade and Orange counties. Now it is time to ensure this basic fairness all across our state.”
The legislation may face a frosty reception in the Florida Legislature where a recent attempt to pass a sexual orientation-inclusive workplace nondiscrimination bill was stonewalled and the legislation never even put on a state committee agenda. Advocates however remain quietly optimistic that progress can be made.