History of Domestic Partner Registry
In order to be effective in your creation of a Domestic Partner Registry (DPR), it is important to understand its history. Knowing the progression of how DPRs evolved will provide a good foundation.
In 1978 Berkley, California passed an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. This ordinance was the city’s attempt to provide some measure of equality for the gay community. In passing the ordinance, however, the city did not anticipate city employees in same-sex relationships attempting to secure benefits for their partners. When the denial occurred in 1979, to city employee Tom Brougham, he set out to create a strategy for the city to be able to provide benefits for same-sex employees and their families.
Since same-sex couples were not legally permitted to marry, Brougham decided to call same-sex relationships “domestic partnerships” and thereby creating a new category for recognition. Creating a new category was necessary, due to the city of Berkley making family benefits only available to married employees. Brougham realized certain criteria would have to be put in place in order for the city to deem relationships domestic partnerships. Working with his partner at the time, Barry Warren, Brougham began to piece together language to define these partnerships. The following are the basic requirements he felt defined any committed relationship:
- Joint financial responsibilities.
- Shared residence.
- Not involved in a domestic relationship with anyone else.
- At least eighteen years old, and able to enter into a contract.
In early 1980, Brougham and Warren began to bring their ideas to the city council of Berkley. However, it was not until they approached San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt that things would begin to shift. Supervisor Britt agreed to take their proposal to the Board of Supervisors. While the proposal was focused solely on securing benefits for same-sex couples, the backlash from the religious community and the media turned the issue into an attack on “the sanctity of marriage”. Although the Board of Supervisors would pass the bill, Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed the bill when it was presented for her signature.
While it is true the bill was rejected, the outcome was still not completely a loss. From the proposal of a new category to define relationships, a new term had been created and introduced to the country. The category of Domestic Partner could now be used to replace other less flattering terms to describe same-sex couples. Since there had been emphasis given to the fact benefits were only granted to married couples, heterosexual couples began to see they too were being denied benefits because they were not married. In addition, the groundwork had now been laid for other cities and communities to follow suite and demand benefits for their partners.
As a natural progression, others began to research how to bring more benefits to same-sex partners. Employees who worked for companies not offering benefits for domestic partners looked for ways to have their relationship recognized in some small manner. Domestic partner registries began to be created in more progressive areas of the country, such as California.
The following is a brief history of how registries have been created in cities and states across the country as a result of the early accomplishments of Tom Brogham and Barry Warren in Berkley, California.
The first Domestic Partner Registry (DPR) was established in 1985 in West Hollywood, California. In 1989, the city of San Francisco, California established a DPR, only to have voters repeal it shortly afterward. In response to the repealing of the DPR in San Francisco, an initive was created and titled Proposition K which focused on bringing back many of the rights offered by the previous DPR. Voters subsequently passed the Proposition K initiative and the registry was reinstated; albeit in a modified version of the original from 1989.
There were other cities that also were successful in bringing a DPR to their community in California. As a result of the passage of these DPRs, the state became known for their progressive stance on gay rights and in 1999, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill creating a DPR covering the entire state of California. The Governor’s signature on this bill made California the first state in the country to create a DPR and recognize same-sex couples. Since California passed their DPR, other states have followed suit, although somewhat slowly
In 1986 Key West became the first city in the state of Florida to pass a DPR. Since then, several cities have been successful in the passage of ordinances. In the past year, several cities, which were previously considered ultra conservative, have passed DPRs without much resistance from local officials or the community. For instance, Miami, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Tampa have all passed their proposed ordinances with majority and unanimous votes from their city council. Recently the city of Gulfport,Florida became the first city in the county of Pinellas to pass the ordinance with an unanimous vote by its city council.
While each of the above are city ordinances, it is important to continue to lobby at the county level in order for the DPR to be available to the greatest number of residents. Orange county Florida is currently the only county in the state of Florida where a DPR is available to county residents. While other counties, such as Pinellas, are currently evaluating the passage of a DPR, as of this writing only Orange County has a DPR in place for all county residents in the state of Florida.