Gay Rights Backers Cheering Over Pensacola Partnership Registry

December 22, 2013

The passage of a domestic-partnership registry ordinance in Pensacola has gay rights advocates cheering.

But some social conservatives say the registries mean little in a state where a ban on gay marriage is enshrined in the constitution.

The Pensacola City Council approved the domestic partnership registry by an 8-1 vote last week after hearing from dozens of gay residents who tearfully shared tales of being denied hospital privileges for their loved ones and of drawn-out legal battles after their long-term partners died.

The city joined more than a dozen local governments in Florida, most of them in the more liberal southeastern portion of the state, with similar ordinances giving gay and straight couples who live together but aren’t married the right to make decisions about funerals, visit partners in the hospital or in prisons and be involved in dependents’ schooling.

The ordinance “has tremendous significance,” said Pensacola Councilman Larry Johnson, who sponsored the proposal.

“It does make a statement that Pensacola is a progressive, welcoming, open-minded, accepting, reasonable city,” he said.

With an active LGBT community, the city of Pensacola is decidedly more progressive than the rest of Escambia County. The city is included in a district represented by Republican Rep. Mike Hill, a tea party favorite and rising star in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

City Council Chairwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn cast the lone “no” vote on the proposal, saying it “undermines the very fiber of our culture, that is marriage and the family unit.”

But the city’s overwhelming approval of the domestic registry signifies a cultural shift in attitudes toward gay rights, said Rep. Joe Saunders, an Orlando Democrat who is one of the first openly gay members of the Legislature.

“There’s something viral happening,” Saunders, who works for a division of the gay rights organization Equality Florida, said. “What you’re seeing is places like Pensacola and cities and counties acknowledging that there are gay and lesbian couples who are contributing members of the community who deserve protections that the federal and state governments won’t give them yet. …It is a sign of progress.”

Monroe County passed the first domestic partnership registry in 1998. Since then, at least 18 other local municipalities or counties have passed similar ordinances. Most of them give domiciled couples the rights to be notified in cases of emergency, make medical decisions about an incapacitated partner, be guaranteed health-care visitation, make decisions about funerals and burials, participate in dependents’ education and ensure visitation in correctional facilities.

Populous Palm Beach, Broward and Orange counties are among the localities with the registries, meaning that more than half of Floridians now live in communities where they can enroll.

“If we can have a domestic partnership registry here, I would like to say that the rest of the state should be thinking about it as well,” said ACLU of Florida Northwest Regional Director Sara Latshaw, who approached Saunders about the ordinance and organized support for it.

Social conservatives discount the significance of the registries, saying they provide rights already granted with the proper legal back-up.

But the steady creep of the local ordinances could provide fodder for courts to overturn the ban on gay marriage, said Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer who spearheaded the Florida Marriage Protection Act put into the constitution by more than 60 percent of voters in 2008.

“I’m very concerned because the issue has nothing to do with these arrangements. It has to do with collective schemes being used as a whole by courts to advance homosexual marriage and other special gay rights. These arrangements are really just completely unnecessary and the crocodile tears shed at these meetings are without merit,” Stemberger said.

Despite the growing support of local governments for domestic partnerships, there’s little chance that the Republican- controlled Legislature will soon follow suit.

A domestic-partnership registry proposal sponsored by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, received its first vetting in the state Senate this year. The 5-4 committee vote approving the measure, which later went nowhere, was considered a victory.

Saunders sponsored a proposal that would ban discrimination against gay employees. The bill never received a hearing but was co-sponsored by six Republicans. Saunders views that, too, as a win, and said it will be hard for state lawmakers to vote against policies supported by their local communities.

“I don’t think as entrenched as they are they can ignore this shift. Pensacola is the best example we have of the momentum. It doesn’t matter what party you’re in any more. …Eventually the leadership in Tallahassee is going to have to pay attention,” Saunders said.

In a historic June ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, injecting new enthusiasm into the gay marriage movement throughout the country. In Florida, gay rights activists postponed pursuing an effort to put on the November 2014 ballot an initiative that would undo the ban on gay marriage. But they haven’t ruled out a legal challenge to the constitutional ban such as those being fought in other states.

The courts are “counting these ordinances around the country,” Stemberger said. “It’s a piece of the puzzle of what a court does to make decisions they don’t have a basis for in law.

Stemberger argues that the ordinances may mislead gay couples into believing they have rights they aren’t entitled to without proper estate planning or durable powers of attorney.

“I do think it’s harmful to them in a weird sort of way,” he said.

Social conservatives may have stayed mostly on the sidelines about the Pensacola ordinance — no one spoke against the proposal at two public hearings on the issue — but they won’t remain mum about gay marriage or an anti-discrimination law.

The registry “isn’t something to get into a yelling match over,” said Tampa Bay evangelical radio host Bill Bunkley, president of the Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“The moment you start talking about an active campaign to change the Florida marriage amendment in the constitution as opposed to this registry I suggest you would see all of the robust opposition on the right from social conservatives. There is a distinct difference,” he said.

Stemberger said his organization and others are “going to spend a lot of time and money opposing” anti-gay discrimination laws like the one Saunders is pushing. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled this summer that a photographer could be liable for refusing to provide service to a gay couple for their same-sex commitment ceremony.

“If I refuse to facilitate as a landlord what I consider to be immoral conduct …I am then faced with a lawsuit because I can’t practice my faith. There’s enormous encroachment upon a private enterprise, a private property,” he said. “It’s one thing to prevent them from doing it. It’s another thing to force them to engage in commerce.”

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida


42 Responses to “Gay Rights Backers Cheering Over Pensacola Partnership Registry”

  1. Ashton on March 18th, 2014 8:04 pm

    Some of you people are highly ridiculous. Cannada-Wynn has her opinion. But when you have a position in politics, and it effects the lives of other people, you make the decisions that make everyone’s rights fair. You idiots talking about how disgraceful the decision was for Pensacola, well it’s more disgraceful to take someones rights away for the hell of it. This isn’t 1900 anymore. Remember not too long ago when blacks were the current epidemic? Well you snobs saying that being gay is wrong and gay marriage is wrong were the ones saying that blacks shouldn’t have any rights. But they should. Which is why they got them. Because they deserve it. They are RIGHTS. Not PRIVILEGES. Cannada-Wynn, and many more need to open your eyes, and look on the /RIGHT/ side of history. After all, this IS the 21st century. Its a sad country when you can get out of prison for murdering before you can get married to the person you love.

  2. Jeff B. on December 26th, 2013 1:28 pm

    I find the whole discussion ironic at best. The Bible says God loves the “sinner” but HATES the “sin”. Nuff’ said, end of discussion. But if I were a betting man I would bet my entire paycheck on the City Council Chairwoman, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, being a DEMOCRAT and voting DEMOCRAT….straight down the ticket. ANYBODY else see the IRONY ? YOU/SHE can not have it both ways !!!!!!

  3. molino jim on December 24th, 2013 10:52 am

    There is another part to all of this. This was NOT just about gays. There are many people in this country who are living with one another and are not married. Many older couples would have a loss of benefits if married. Some people have no family to make life decisions and when the person becomes sick some court decides what that person wanted. Those who are so filled with hate toward gays remember one thing in the Bible where it said God would judge the person when they died– shouldn’t we follow that same path?

  4. jeremy hodder on December 24th, 2013 5:54 am

    when a single one of you christians on here commenting acts like a christian and not like a minion of the anti-christ then the moral fiber and decay of your society might slow. but for now you are content to be morally devoid to other human beings as long as they don’t have the same belief system or don’t do what YOU think is right. if you’re such a good christian then who are you to say what god wants? are you so arrogant to think you know? yea that would be how the anti-christ would think, that’s why we call people who think like that sociopaths.

  5. RealityCheck on December 23rd, 2013 11:44 pm

    Well, God also made gay people, so get over it. Where is your mighty stance against divorce? Why don’t you campaign on that for a bit, because Christ talked about that quite a bit in the New Testament. He also spoke of Adultery. He felt it was so important, it should be one of Ten Commandments, yet, I don’t see anything regarding the outlaw of adultery. Some previous comments kind of remind me of Christ and the Pharisees.

  6. me on December 23rd, 2013 6:49 pm

    God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

  7. Geez! on December 23rd, 2013 12:35 pm

    ” Watch out next hurricane season ?!?”

    Oh my goodness, there are some truly nutty responses here. Some of you close minded people need to realize not everyone believes the same things YOU do. Is that so hard to understand? Keep your religion in YOUR homes and churches please!

  8. Daniel Fuller on December 23rd, 2013 10:38 am

    Thank you Council Chairwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn . Maybe you should think of running for hire a office.

  9. Josh on December 23rd, 2013 10:15 am

    The Bible has no place in politics. You guys have every right in the world to vote out political figures who you deem to be unable to represent yourselves, but understand that just because the Bible says something, doesn’t mean our laws are guaranteed to reflect it. The comments on here are appalling. You guys declaring that the world is falling apart are repulsive, and foolish.

    Times are changing, folks. In 50 years we will like back on this anti-gay movement with all of the embarrassment that we do the anti-African American movements of the 50s and 60s.

  10. Sharon on December 23rd, 2013 7:29 am

    Thank you, Ms. Wynn for standing up in what you believe in! We as Christians need to make it known what is truly the right way, GOD’s way. So many people try to re-write the bible to suite them and their lifestyles. Some have referred to Sodom and Gomorrah, and it is so fitting for the Pensacola area. Watch out next hurricane season ?!?

  11. JimD on December 23rd, 2013 7:27 am

    Good for Chairwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn for casting the only “NO” vote in this matter.

    Is it possible to post the names or the other city council members here so everyone will now who they are for the next election?

    In the world of politics, you can quote the Bible all you want and very little will happen. You start a movement against individuals on political view, cut funding promote a candidate with more conservative/less progressive views and their options can suddenly shift.

  12. Angela Brown on December 23rd, 2013 1:05 am

    It is sad that only one woman had the guts to stand up for her beliefs. Good for her!! Pensacola is Sodom and Gomorrah on the GULF COAST. There are more Gay Bars in Pensacola than you realize. And when a Christian stands up against them, the Gays scream we aren’t Christians because we hate them. Well I can honestly say I hate the ACT of homosexuality. GOD created ADAM and EVE ,not Adam and Steve or Amanda and EVE “HE CREATED ADAM AND EVE”,” MAN AND WOMAN”. He DESTROY SODOM and GOMORRAH for the Homosexuality, Adultery and pure evil sins that were happening there. There is NO let them live there life it’s not their choice, THAT’s a LIE, we are all born in sin IT is our choice to decide which way we are going to live, for GOD or against GOD. That is his gift to us FREE WILL. Hot or Cold, people, you cant be luke warm in your beliefs. The time of our Lord is at hand so decide where you stand. I STAND WITH GOD. Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs , soon they will be executed for them. REPENT AND TURN AWAY FROM YOUR SINS.

  13. AC on December 22nd, 2013 10:13 pm

    Many thanks for your stand for what’s right Jewel Cannada-Wynn

  14. RealityCheck on December 22nd, 2013 8:16 pm

    Why are we telling other tax paying Americans they aren’t entitled to the same rights as everyone else? My significant other doesn’t need a “power-of-attorney”, so why should someone have to go through that because of sexual orientation? It seems to me if you don’t believe in Gay Marrage, then fine, don’t be gay and don’t get married. It’s quite simple, actually. These people just want the right to make decisions. Florida doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, so they want the next best thing.

  15. Redman on December 22nd, 2013 6:34 pm

    As a christian,its not about how I feel about someone being gay.Its about what God says about it.My feelings are really irrevalent.Who am I to try to fix the word of God.God says no and thats it……end of disscussion .If you are not a saved christian then you are not probably not going to care what God says anyway.

  16. patti on December 22nd, 2013 6:27 pm

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but PLEASE don’t expect me to agree with something that is WRONG! Regardless of who you are, if it’s wrong in God’s eyes, it’s certainly going to be wrong in my eyesight. Hey – I’m not perfect one bit, and I don’t claim to be, but I do know RIGHT FROM WRONG. I do know how to pray and to ask for forgiveness!

  17. christian on December 22nd, 2013 6:22 pm

    YES, AND PROUD OF IT!! Everyday more and more RIGHTS of Christian folks are taken away. If you believe in God, AND his son Jesus Christ then you’re condemned, BUT if you believe in all the sins that are being committed in THIS country then hurray for you! You’re on your way to HELL! Don’t tell me that there is no such place or thing!! Read the BIBLE, it’s GOD’S WORD, and don’t tell me that it’s just a book a man wrote. IT’S been in the world longer that any other book in the world. There are those who have tried to destroy it AND they HAVE NOT been successful!! PRAISE GOD!! No, I’m not politically correct and don’t intend to be. I won’t insult you by telling you that God doesn’t agree with your life style, I’ll just pray for you. It’s like the soldier in combat who doesn’t believe in God, what does he do when someone is shooting at him, He hollows for God to help him. Why call on God if you don’t believe in HIM. a SIN is a SIN and has been since Creation!! Why did God make MAN & WOMAN if he intended for two females or two males to marry, why not make just men OR women! Don’t tell me HE made a mistake, only man/woman make mistakes!!

  18. Kandy Rain on December 22nd, 2013 5:18 pm

    Ha and florida won’t except weed. Something is very wrong with this state. When you can vote on something.

  19. James Broel on December 22nd, 2013 2:55 pm

    Well done Pensacola!! Thank you for moving forward in this century for the rights of people…even those others may not agree.

  20. Realist on December 22nd, 2013 1:34 pm


    That’s your view, and you are allowed to have that view. However, others don’t see it that way. However, calling these people “perverted and sick” is not just disagreeing with their lifestyle. It is judgemental and hateful. These are not sick and perverted people, they are people with different views.

    For those asking why gays are screaming hate, it is because others aren’t simply disagreeing with their lifestyle, they are insulting it. The Duck Dynasty guy compared it to beastiality. That’s not simply disagreement, that is insulting. So that’s where the “hate” comes from.

  21. Linda on December 22nd, 2013 1:11 pm

    Thank you Ms. Jewel Cannada-Wynn for your brave stance of going against the flow. This country is going in the wrong direction and more of us are going to have to make a stand like you took. Political correctness that endorses sinful action only leads to further decay of what use to be a moral and God-fearing country. Those who don’t believe in God and His word make their own choices. Those of us who do believe, we covet the freedom to do so without persecution for our beliefs. We are not bigots, nor discriminators, because of our beliefs. Every person is accountable for his/her own decisions and actions. The government should not endorse personal choices and decisions as a law or mandate. The freedom to make those choices are what America is all about. We must protect and hold dear the freedoms that this country was founded upon, or they will erode away like sand out on the beach.

  22. fred on December 22nd, 2013 1:05 pm

    @CL and Realist –
    I could not care less what you do in the bedroom. It’s your private affair. However, PLEASE keep it private. Go get a power of attorney for the purpose of executing legal matters on behalf of your significant person and be done with it. These relationships aren’t marriage, and you’ll never convince anyone that they are. But, please keep private matters private.

  23. BD on December 22nd, 2013 11:41 am

    Everything about homosexuality is perverted and sick, the worst kind of SIN, this nation is in trouble!!! God will not be mocked! Yes, Sodom and Gomorrah were real and its soon coming to this once God fearing country!!! Disgusting to read this NEWS!!!! Pathetic!!!! Deviant behavior being flaunted!!!!

  24. CW on December 22nd, 2013 11:12 am


    I totally agree! This is one thing that bugs me about living in the rural South. People like to preach about “freedom”, especially when it comes to the federal government, but at the local level they’re perfectly fine with using their Bible to tell others how to live their lives.

  25. K in Cantonment on December 22nd, 2013 10:45 am

    I am not here to judge anyone, God will do that. I just want to say, the gays want to be treated equal but they are the ones crying the loudest about what everyone else has to say (Phil -Duck Dynasty) but they can do and say whatever they want all they have to do is whine and everyone buckles. MAKES ME SICK!!!!!

  26. LOULOU on December 22nd, 2013 10:31 am

    What I do not understand is why gay folks always scream the hate word when ever anyone disagres with them. Even if the person is an atheist. What ever happened to a difference of opinion? Can one not like a red color car insread of a blue color car. Does it mean they are haters of the color of red. Come on GLBT people the hate speach is really getting old maybe you could find another term like plain old disagreement and leave it at that. Not eveyrone is always going to see eye to eye we are not programmed that way. It is call a difference of opinion. So I most humbly ask the GLBT community please let the hate word RIP?

  27. Realist on December 22nd, 2013 9:36 am

    I don’t understand the hate coming from this thread. Maybe you folks don’t understand “separation of church and state.” You know, what this country was founded on? If you don’t support gays or think it is disgraceful and abandoning your God, good news, you don’t have to participate. However, this is a country free from religious persecution and those who have different views should have the same rights as the rest of us.

  28. CW on December 22nd, 2013 8:49 am

    Wow, many of the posters here are going to be very angry people going into the near future.

  29. Puddin on December 22nd, 2013 8:35 am

    While I do not agree with the concept of “gay” marriage. I still think this is a good thing. It allows people who have lived together, without benefit of a marriage licence, to have the right to make medical descisions for their partners. Since some dear freinds of mine, not a same sex couple, are currently dealing with this, I can see the benefits.

    As for same sex marriage. I do my best to follow the Bible and not judge. Its not my place. Its Gods place. :-)

  30. The DOER on December 22nd, 2013 8:19 am

    We have truly become another Sodom and Gomorrah. “Sodom.” The word “Sodomy” comes from “Sodom.” Look it up.

  31. don on December 22nd, 2013 7:57 am

    it is disgraceful to watch our once great GOD fearing nation fall apart and abandon GOD little by little. our judgement is not far away.

  32. Gembeaux on December 22nd, 2013 7:51 am

    I applaud Jewel Cannada-Wynn. I think she did the hard thing, but the right thing. Unfortunately, it seems that many politicians and other public representatives these days forget about those who put them in office, the people for whom they are supposed to act as a voice and, instead, go along with what is “trendy”.

    (BTW, Will now need another new slogan: “Pensacola. The Backside of Florida”?)

  33. Robert S. on December 22nd, 2013 7:49 am

    So, other than the City Council approving this, it is still not legal according to the Constitution of Florida, right.? Is the City Council in violation of state law.?
    Sounds to me like unless you live in the City of Pensacola boundaries this has no impact at all.
    Does this just apply to the Downtown Improvement Area.?
    If not legal, what is the point other than for some politicians to try and galvanize themselves with the gay community and use this issue to garner their votes in the upcoming elections?
    Totally different subject….the bumper sticker thing at top of this article with “Upside of Florida” and the thing that has many names shown where the letter O should be, is just stupid. This is the City of Five Flags and should be advertised as such.

  34. izzy on December 22nd, 2013 7:28 am

    Thanks Jewel for the RIGHT vote!!

  35. Proud of you on December 22nd, 2013 7:14 am


    “There’s something viral happening,” Saunders, who works for a division of the gay rights organization Equality Florida, said.

    Of, relating to, or caused by a virus.

    a. Any of various simple submicroscopic parasites of plants, animals, and bacteria that often cause disease and that consist essentially of a core of RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein coat. Unable to replicate without a host cell, viruses are typically not considered living organisms.
    b. A disease caused by a virus.
    2. Something that poisons one’s soul or mind:

    It’s better to walk alone, than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.—Diane Grant

  36. Daniel on December 22nd, 2013 7:10 am

    Fortunately you only need look at the obitz to see the opponents of equality and human rights dropping like flies. No different than the old bigots who oppose race and gender equality dying off and taking their discrimination with them. The world spins forward.

  37. D.Hall on December 22nd, 2013 6:49 am

    I’ll bet those that “voted” yes will attend Church & tell everone that they “believe” in the BIBLE & JESUS … Read & Understand It Sometime ! We Need To Save Our FAMILIES & MARRIAGE – (1) Husband = MAN (2) Wife = FEMALE , Thats What My BIBLE Says … No Its Not OK To Sin !

  38. BeLegallyPrepared on December 22nd, 2013 6:47 am

    People, stop expecting the government to do what you should do for yourselves. If you have a loved one in the hospital and you want to make medical decisions for them (or even visit them), do the legal paperwork. If you want to make funeral arrangements for them, do the legal paperwork, IN ADVANCE. This has nothing to do with gay rights. This applies to EVERYBODY. I personally experienced these issues when my father was terminally ill and his third wife was so strung out on drugs she wouldn’t provide adequate medical care for him. Then when he passed away, she did exactly what SHE wanted with no concern for his family. Lesson Learned. On another note: “Something viral is happening here.” Yes, it’s called AIDS.

  39. Dudley Herrington on December 22nd, 2013 6:47 am

    Pensacola is a disgrace to America and our “FATHER In HEAVEN”. Thank you MS. WYNN.

  40. Bryan Bethea on December 22nd, 2013 6:44 am

    Congratulations to Pensacola! It isn’t often that I get to cheer about something the local government of my hometown has enacted, but this is one of those occasions. I have proudly pointed to this vote as ammunition to dispel the widely held notion that Pensacola is a redneck backwater full of crazy fundamentalists who burn down abortion clinics and murder doctors.

    Whether you like it or not our culture has shifted on the issue of gay rights. If you still believe it’s perfectly fine to make second class citizens out of gay people then you are to be resigned to the dustbin of history. In 30 years your children and grandchildren will look back at your positions today and see the same we see now when we look at segregationists from the 1950s and 1960s: shame, horror, and guilt.

    There will always be those who can’t accept the evolution of our culture and who long for the bad old days when it was perfectly acceptable to discriminate against gay people. Just like there are still people today who long for Jim Crow laws and ’separate but equal.’ However, young people today just don’t see the distinction in sexual orientation and to them gay marriage is a non-issue.

  41. whisperjet on December 22nd, 2013 6:30 am

    ..way to go Jewel …..It is always hard to do the right thing …

  42. Carolyn Bramblett on December 22nd, 2013 5:33 am

    It was a disgraceful vote by the Pensacola City Council. Good for Jewel Cannada-Wynn taking the moral high ground. The rush into deviancy we see also takes away the rights of fellow Americans to not service those who advocate something that has been against God and nature since Creation.

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