Domestic partner registry up for vote in North Port

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NORTH PORT, FL - North Port city leaders are poised to approve a domestic partner registry in the city. Once passed those who live together and are not related or married will be eligible for more rights.

City residents Sharon Servidio and Dominic Socci have been together for more than eight years. Sharon says living together and not being married can be complicated. "It's embarrassing to have to explain things to people. A lot of people are old fashioned."

They're curious about a new ordinance which could offer them and anyone else older then 18 who lives together and isn't related more rights. "I would like that. It would kind of be the next step. Not being married but a little more legal I guess."

"The domestic registry eliminates obstacles to a functioning relationship." Ken Shelin has been successfully championing the registry in local governments. From same sex couples to straight, he says there are some significant benefits. "Legally in terms of access in a hospital or a funeral home or jail or in a classroom."

Sharon says they already have a power of attorney but it's not cheap or easy. "It was a couple of days and was probably three or four inches thick."

Shelin says he's had issues in the past. "I've had healthcare providers refuse to honor a power of attorney which was prepared by a Florida attorney. I've had banks refuse to honor it. I have other businesses refuse to honor it."

If passed domestic partners would come down to city hall pay a $30 fee, sign some paperwork, and get a card and certificate verifying they're registered. "That is recognition by the government that your relationship is real and it exists. It is documented officially in government records. It's an important difference."

Shelin says it could also be beneficial to those who could lose benefits by remarrying. or seniors who just live with and care for each other. Saying it could also help down the road with federal laws which could offer more rights to live in partners of all types. "We deserve the same right. We deserve the same rights," says Sharon.

City Commissioners will be voting on the issues next Monday.

Sarasota County along with the cities of Venice and Sarasota already have similar ordinances. In its first year Sarasota has seen more than 200 couples sign up.