According to the Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), “On February 20, 2013 at approximately 3:25 p.m. in the Florida Senate Children and Families committee, a deceptive and highly controversial bill died. The bill, SB 196, was labeled as a domestic partnership but actually attempted to create a full blown civil union and a form of homosexual marriage in direct violation of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment passed by Floridians in 2008 by 62%.”
Several pro-family leaders spoke during the committee meeting in opposition to the bill. Those speakers in opposition included John Stemberger President of Florida Family Action, Michael B. Sheedy, Director for Public Policy for the Florida Family Catholic Conference of Bishops and Bill Bunkley President of Florida Voices.
John Stemberger, Florida Family Action president, pointed out that the bill was unconstitutional because it violated the Florida Defense of Marriage Act. Stemberger told the committee that unlike the language used by cities and counties across Florida that adopted Domestic Partnership Registries, SB 196 was much broader. This broader language violated the “substantial equivalent to marriage” prohibition in the Florida Defense of Marriage Act.
The bill died as a result of the sponsor Committee Chairman Senator Eleanor Sobel (D-FL District 33) temporarily postponing a vote on the bill because she knew she did not have the votes to pass it after two and a half hours of debate. This also prevented the Senators on the committee from voting on the record which is an increasing challenge in trying to hold legislators accountable.
“This bill would have further undermined the institution of marriage by creating an alternate union which would have competed with, diluted, and therefore devalued natural marriage as the ideal arrangement for society,” notes FFPC.
FFPC states in an email to supporters:
Republican Senator Nancy Detert (FL District 28) made it clear after hearing from the public that she should would not support the bill as written but would support a Domestic Partnership bill if it were modeled similar to the one adopted by the City of Sarasota. If Sobel rewrites the bill to Detert’s liking the bill will most likely pass this committee since Detert is the swing vote.
The committee rejected SB 196 by voice vote. The language proposed at the committee meeting lost by one vote. Committee Chair and sponsor of SB 196 Eleanor Sobel said after the voice vote that she wanted to “TP” (temporarily postpone) the action taken on the bill. Therefore, the bill will most likely be back with narrower language and could pass this committee because of Senator Detert’s support for leaner wording.
Senator Detert’s district includes Sarasota County, FL. The City of Sarasota has created a domestic partnership registry promoted by former Sarasota City Commissioner Ken Shelin, who is gay. According to Florida Agenda:
Thanks in part to an opinion from [Pam Bondi] Florida’s attorney general that permits them, the Sunshine State now boasts nine cities and five counties with domestic partner registries, seven of them established in the last year. “In Florida, it’s almost like a wildfire,” says Ken Shelin, a former Sarasota city commissioner who supports establishing a registry, and who lobbied current commissioners in May about considering one. “I know that some people think that there’s a hidden agenda here—that there’s a gay agenda,” said Shelin. “But 90 percent of domestic partners are opposite sex.”
Shelin is lobbying the North Port City Commission to establish a domestic registry. Domestic partnerships are considered by opponents as a weakening of the institution of marriage.