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County has no plans on scrapping benefits

 Recently two little words were a big point of contention in Broward County’s domestic partnership law — “Reside together.”

“I think it made a lot of sense to remove the reside together provisions,” said Broward Vice Mayor Martin Kiar. “And I also want to add we recognize even though marriage equality is the law of the land, there are people that don’t want to be married and deserve to have the benefits of domestic partnerships.”

County commissioners voted to add an amendment that Broward residents who register as domestic partners must show proof that they reside together.

But representatives from Broward County’s Human Rights Board and Equality Florida have asked that the requirement be removed. They’ve asked that other inclusions and provisions be made for funeral decisions, burial decisions, and childcare and educational responsibilities. The issue has been set for a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

“The rest of the state really does look to Broward. Many other domestic partnership and registry programs reference yours directly. What you do here has a cascading effect,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida at the Sept. 10 county commission meeting.

Commissioner Lois Wexler went through the list of proposed amendments and revisions calling them “a definite give and take.”

The initial proposal included:

  • revising requirements for domestic partnership registration
  • defining the term “reside together” as a new requirement
  • And providing for the designation of domestic partners for funeral and burial decisions

If the amendment passes as originally written, applicants would be required to show a copy of one of the following:

  • Current mortgage, deed, or lease showing both names of the domestic partners
  • Current driver's license showing the same address for both domestic partners
  • Current government issued photograph identification showing the same address for both domestic partners
  • Current tax returns showing the same address for both domestic partners
  • Current utility bill showing the same address for both domestic partners
  • Current joint bank account statement showing the same address for both domestic partners

But after discussions with Pollitzer and Michael Rajner, chair of Broward’s Human Rights Board, Wexler said she felt that removing the words “reside together,” and the associated requirements would be the appropriate way to address concerns.

Mayor Tim Ryan said he would be in favor of removing the residency requirements, if the law were “bifurcated or delineated” to still apply to employees of Broward County.

About 7,000 people in Broward are registered as domestic partners. Ryan said about 150 are county employees.

Speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Board, Rajner asked that an addition be made to address educational concerns for children of domestic partners. The board recommended that the county include designation of domestic partner rights for pick up, drop off, before and after school care, and field trip permission.

The board recommended the inclusions be made at the county level because the school board does not have jurisdiction over charter schools. If added, the amendment would cover non-religious preschools, private schools, and charter schools, and before and after school care programs.

The Oct. 13 public hearing will take place at 2 p.m. in room 422 of the Broward County Governmental Center, 115 South Andrews Ave. in Fort Lauderdale.