VICTORY! Or so it seems. Today, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs held a meeting with the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee to discuss what her position on the big gay issue, a Domestic Partnership Registry, really is. We've covered this here and here and here, but we've also been spending a lot of time sitting outside of the Orange County Administration building wondering why this isn't easier. Why, as they say, are we here? Well, as David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel pointed out in this morning's paper of record, this story is constantly evolving. We've watched pots of water boil before. This ain't our first kitchen. Boil, dammit!
Jacobs apparently invited the TeeVee media into her office for comments after the meeting – not us, mind – and, unless we're completely deluded and/or drunk, it would seem that she's finally dropped her anti-gay frown in favor of a milder, blurrier future. As Damron pointed out, Jacobs is still working out some pertinent issues, namely the next-of-kin notification required by state government, education issues and, cough, whether cremation is something a domestic partner can decide. Fine. She has a few months to work out the kinks, thanks to her own personally established timeline.
So here are the other outstanding issues: Jacobs is basically dumping the registry on the City of Orlando, something that wasn't supposed to happen. Originally, it was floated that the city would use the county's larger database for the registry – and it is, presently – because that would be cheaper. The county now says that its residents will likely have to show up at Orlando City Hall to register, rather than utilizing any of the county's numerous offices. We spoke with City Clerk Alana Brenner this morning, and she said that though there had been "some talks" with the city about keeping up the registry, the matter hadn't been finalized. (It's all County Comptroller Martha Haynie's doing, because she is awesome and has been fighting the good fight since day one).
More importantly, according to OADO member Lisa Tillmann, whom we spoke to after today's meeting, the county actually has greater power to enforce a registry; the city has a limit of a $500 fine in cases where the registry is not properly observed. The county will enforce a "private course of action" against violators, which could be substantially more significant via the county's Human Rights Ordinance. Jacobs is still stalling a bit on the issue, saying she'll have an ordinance – one that will include a separate option for non-cohabiting residents that allows them to be off the public record – in a few months, but all signs are good right now. She reportedly admitted in the meeting that the plan had the support of all but one of the county commissioners (we'll let you guess which one).
"The part we're still hopeful about is the continued consultation," said Tillmann. "We're hoping to have a seat at the table when they draft the ordinance."
Tomorrow morning, Jacobs will introduce the measure via PowerPoint at the Board of County Commissioners meeting, and gay advocates are encouraging anyone and everyone to show up wearing red in support.
"She knows the commissioners support it," says OADO member Mary Meeks. "Now she just needs to know we support her."
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