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Monday, June 17, 2024

Miami-Dade County followed the lead of other Florida counties and cities, enacting domestic partnership benefits for non-married couples regardless of sexual orientation Tuesday.

Gainesville has offered benefits since 2000. Domestic partnerships offer an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples when marriage isn't an option, as in Florida.

Gainesville enacted a domestic partnership registry July 2007, which publicly acknowledges partnership. It ensures equal opportunity for domestic partners to provide care to loved ones in life-threatening times. Since then, 72 couples have signed up for the registry, said Kurt Lannon, clerk of the commission.

Benefits offered to domestic partnerships include health insurance, financial securities, sick leave and mourning period leave. The city does not offer marital status; instead, it recognizes financial reliance of domestic partners.

Domestic partnership benefits have been available for the last eight years, said Steven Varvel, head of the city's Risk Management Department.

Joe Antonelli, president of the Gainesville Community Alliance, a social organization for gays, lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals, is currently on vacation in Boston, where gay marriage is legal.

Although benefits and the registry help, Antonelli said, domestic partnership is in no way equal to marriage.

"All it is is having an equal treatment of relationship. That's really all that it boils down to," he said. "The one in Gainesville is open to all people - heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, whatever. It's not exclusive to gays."

But he said equal rights would only be accomplished through gay marriage. For now, he settles for the city's progressive efforts for domestic partnership.

"Domestic partnership in Gainesville is a step in the right direction," Antonelli said.

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