Domestic partnership registry approved in Punta Gorda

CREATED Apr 2, 2014 - UPDATED: Apr 2, 2014

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - The Punta Gorda City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday that creates a domestic partnership registry within the city.

"This has given me so much relief. I can't stop crying," supporter Lorrie Loop said.

By registering in a domestic partnership database, unmarried couples who live together could be given rights to make healthcare and funeral decisions for their partner. 

The ordinance would grant the following six rights for domestic partners: 

1. Notification of partners in an emergency

2. Hospital visitation

3. Ability to make healthcare decisions 

4. Designate each other as pre-need guardians

5. Make funeral and burial arrangements for deceased partner

6. Allows partners to participate in decisions affecting the education of minor children in the household, unless the other biological parent objects

Loop shared her story about losing her husband to cancer ten years ago and her fears about not being able to care for her new partner in the same way.

"With this domestic partnership we will have the rights where I can go to the hospital and be by her side and nurse her through anything and she can with me," Loop said.

Dozens of supporters wore red shirts and packed into city hall for the hearing, but not everyone was in favor of the new changes.

"I am disappointed with the reaction of course," Pastor Jay Sheppard from the Tri City Baptist Church said. "There are a lot of groups that are happy and I can understand that, they got through what they wanted to get through, but as a preacher of the Gospel, the Word of God, the answers don't change, the Bible doesn't change, so you have to stand true to it."

After not knowing about the first public hearing, Sheppard says he wanted to make sure he shared his views.

"I didn't expect any change here today, but felt it necessary to give a different perspective, a biblical perspective," Sheppard said.

Sheppard's perspective was met with some tension at the meeting. Supporters of the ordinance stood up when he spoke.

"What we stood up for was our own rights," Loop said. "This isn't about religion, it isn't about God, it's about our equal rights."

It's also about moving forward.

"It's never going to quit, it never is," Loop said.

Under the new ordinance, domestic partners will get a laminated card from the city clerk's office once they register.