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Domestic Partner Registry May Come to Clearwater

Registered domestic partners will be granted certain medical, education and visitation rights under the ordinance being considered by city leaders.

More Americans are living together and they are not married.

According to the most recent Census information, 5.9 percent of households said they lived this way. That is up from 5.2 percent in 2000.

In Clearwater, those numbers are even higher. According to that same information, 7.5 percent of residents identify themselves as unmarried partner households, up from 6.2 percent in 2000.

With empirical information like this, city leaders are looking to create a domestic partner registry that would allow these unmarried people certain rights pertaining to health care, education and visitation.

“I think it’s the right thing for us to do,” Mayor George N. Cretekos said during discussion of creating the ordinance at a city work session meeting a month ago. “I think it’s the decent thing for us to do.”

The City Council will vote on the ordinance at its meeting Thursday at . It is similar to ones already passed in Tampa and Gulfport.

After registering with the city, the partners would have a say in decisions regarding: health care facility visitation, health care decisions including those concerning physical and mental health, funeral and burial decisions, pre-need guardian designation, and participation in education.

The application fee is $30 and $5 for an extra copy of the certificate proving the domestic partnership.

The domestic partnership can be dissolved if either member marries or dies. The marrying or surviving partner is required to notify the clerk within 10 days of either event.

The partnership can also be dissolved voluntarily. Each member of the partnership must notify the clerk in writing that it is over. The termination fee is $10.

The ordinance requires the clerk to maintain an online searchable database of the registered partners.

The creation of the registry is also viewed as a benefit to companies that “value diversity” looking to locate in the city.

Officials want to make sure the rights offered to members of the registry are not construed as granting legal status to gay marriage.

“All it’s doing is saying that your partner, your significant other, your friend that lives with you, can get hospital information that is not necessarily available now,” Cretekos said.

The registry is expected to be ready for its first applicants in June.

“I really don’t see a downside to this,” said councilmember Bill Jonson. “Maybe people might think there are more legal benefits than there really are.”

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