Today Florida Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Broward County) introduced SB 196, the “Families First” bill, which would extend significant legal protections to same-sex couples in Florida, including hospital-visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for a partner.
It would also give partnered state employees the same government benefits as married ones.
“This bill makes a lasting change in the lives of many Florida families. By keeping couples together through affording them the same equal rights, we are supporting Florida families,” said Sobel (right). “A majority of Americans support extending benefits to couples in domestic partnerships. We cannot allow Florida to be the last state to treat all of its citizens fairly and equally. I am committed to sponsoring and fighting for this bill until it is heard, passed, and signed by the governor.”
Though Florida has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, a number of regions in the Sunshine State already have domestic-partnership ordinances—including Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County, Gainesville and Sarasota.
Sobel has introduced similar legislation in the past, but opponents say this bill won’t get far. “They’re attempts to get around (the Constitution) and approximate a faux marriage arrangement,” said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. “I think they’re lucky if they get it debated.”