Amended civil union bill back up tomorrow

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Senator Eleanor Sobel’s Children and Families Committee will hear on Tuesday an amended version of her proposal to provide domestic partnership benefits, which would spell out certain limited benefits unmarried couples could have under the law.

Sobel said in an interview Friday with The News Service of Florida that she listened to concerns during last week’s hearing on the bill in the committee and believes the measure that will be presented on Tuesday will have a better chance to pass.

Sobel pulled the bill (SB 196) from consideration at the panel’s meeting last week when it became apparent that the votes weren’t there to pass the measure. Under an amended version of the proposal to be heard Tuesday, the bill would spell out specific rights that unmarried couples could be granted if they’re on a domestic partnership registry, rather than the potentially much broader group of rights that could have been conferred by the original legislation.

Sobel said the new bill would seek to give unmarried couples, straight or gay, the ability to visit each other in hospitals, to share rooms in certain places like assisted living facilities, and the ability to jointly own real estate. “It will be more narrowly defined, more clearly defined,” Sobel said, noting that the new version will be based on existing domestic partnership registries already used in some Florida cities and counties.

Opponents of the bill said in last week’s Children and Families Committee meeting that it was too broad. Sobel, who is chairwoman of the committee despite being a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Senate, said just getting to bring the bill up for a committee vote and get it debated was an accomplishment. “Civil unions have never even been heard in the Florida Legislature,” she said. “This is a major milestone, the fact we’re even having this debate.”

Via The News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.