Miriam Richter wants healthcare and she’s taking her fight to city hall

The City of Fort Lauderdale could soon offer health insurance for domestic partners of its employees. If it happens, a local trademark attorney, Miriam Richter, can take a big part of the credit. But she did not start out on a civil rights crusade, instead she got involved for selfish reasons.


“I need a group [insurance] plan.  I just decided it was about time that the City of Fort Lauderdale got into the 21st century.  I can’t buy a group plan because there’s no such thing as a group of one,” she said.  Richter is a self-employed attorney whose medical insurance coverage will run out in November.  Her partner of 17 years is a city employee.  Health insurance benefits for domestic partners are not completely foreign to this area -- Broward County government has allowed them since 1999.  So Richter wanted to see the same kind of coverage for people who work for Fort Lauderdale.

To get the ball rolling, Richter met with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.  He asked her to put together a report detailing the costs associated with adding domestic partners to the current health plan.  It took some time, but once the data was collected, the item was put on the city’s agenda for its July meeting.

At that meeting, City Manager Lee Feldman advised the commission that giving employees the option of adding domestic partners to the City’s self-insured employee health insurance plan could be done with minimal impact on the plan. And while there were some commissioners who spoke out against the idea, in the end, the commission agreed to draft a resolution, which could be heard at the next meeting scheduled for August 23.  Open enrollment for domestic partners could begin October of this year.

That agreement left Richter very optimistic. “I’m very happy. I’m in a state of disbelief.  I grew up in New York City, where there’s no connection to local government.  The fact that I had input is amazing.  I love that I live in a city where I can do that.”

But getting health insurance coverage is not the final step for Richter.  She says the real change will come when she tells people that she’s gay and the response is simply “so what?”