This week Step Out Sarasota‘s Vice-President Carroll Hunter asked me to join him on “The Black Almanac” on ABC-7 to discuss gay marriage with Dr. Ed James, the host of the show for over 40 years. Dr. James contacted Carroll because of his history with Florida Legal, Inc. (a fraternal organization of Gay & Lesbian Law Enforcement Professionals) and his trailblazing experience as an advocate and activist for the GLBTQ community.
Recently, when the City of Venice unanimously voted to add non-discrimination clauses for LGBT people into their city charter, Carroll was there representing Step Out Sarasota and our community. Carroll has put in a lot of time working for equality, and for that reason and many more, he’s my mentor and dear friend. I admire, respect, and try to make Carroll proud. His struggles are my struggles because I love him as a friend, as a brother and as family. That’s why he invited me, a nearly 30-year-old white guy, to be part of the discussion on The Black Almanac.
Carroll has been in a committed relationship with his partner Stephen (different Stephen!) for over 17 years, and they are an adorable couple too! As a couple, their rights are different than heterosexual couples’ in the State of Florida. They cannot get married, there’s no guarantee they would have partner visitation rights in emergency situations and, in many cases, inheritance rulings favor distant relations over grieving partners. There are many more rights denied GLBTQ couples like Carroll and Stephen—it is clear we live in a separate and unequal limbo, and that there is work to be done.
Some communities are making steps to fill in the gaps in protections for non-heterosexual couples. They are creating domestic partner registries where committed partners register with their cities or municipalities, and they are extended many of the same protections granted to married heterosexual couples. In this way, communities can give some protections to non-married couples, and people like Carroll and Stephen can benefit from the same rights afforded to married couples. Domestic Partner Registries are not full marriage equality, but they are a significant step in the right direction.
On Monday, May 21 at 6 p.m. at Sarasota’s City Hall, the commissioners will be presented with a draft for a Domestic Partner Registry for the City of Sarasota. As Nadine Smith (Executive Director of Equality Florida) recently wrote, “No committed couple should ever have to worry about their relationship being questioned in an emergency or whether they’ll be called when their partner is in a life-threatening accident … We encourage Sarasota city leaders to model their policy after registries created in Florida communities such as Tampa, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, Gainesville and Orlando.” This month the City of Gulfport and Volusia County also created registries—things are changing, but for things in Sarasota to change, you have to act!
Show up on Monday night at City Hall. Wear a red T-shirt, be respectful and be visible. Equality Florida has set up a great system to thank our leaders for their support and their willingness to address this critical issue: Click here to send them a thank-you note, and tell them it’s time for the city of Sarasota to pass a Domestic Partnership Registry!
And don’t forget to tune in this Sunday, May 20 at 7:30 a.m. on ABC-7 to see Dr. Ed James, Carroll Hunter and myself discussing Gay marriage and the vision we have of a vibrant GLBTQ Community Center in Sarasota! (or watch it online ).
See you Monday at City Hall—I’ll be the guy in red (well, one of them)!
- Stephen Warne is the president of Step Out Sarasota, Inc.
‘Join’ and ‘Share’: http://on.fb.me/SRQDPREGISTRY