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Possible changes to Florida domestic partnership law debated

A proposed bill in the Florida Senate would give some state-wide rights to individuals living as domestic partners. The bill is a more limited version of an originally proposed bill that would have granted domestic partners in Florida the same basic rights as married couples. The current version would only grant some rights, such as hospital visitation and funeral arrangements, to people living as domestic partners.

The sponsors of the bill contend that the changes are similar to what many municipalities have already instituted, and the bill would serve to create uniform practices throughout the state. Opponents of the bill claim that it is not necessary, as the same results could be achieved through already available legal documents such as durable powers of attorney. Supporters of the bill counter that penalties are required to ensure hospitals and other organizations respect the documented relationships of domestic partners. They hold up, as an example, the case of a lesbian couple visiting Miami. In that instance one of the women became seriously ill, and later died, while her partner was kept from seeing her for eight hours, even though the couple had a power of attorney.

Whether or not these changes are enacted is still in doubt, as the Senate bill is in committee, and the Florida House of Representatives has yet to consider its version. Regardless of any state law changes, it is obvious that the prudent course for couples in Florida is to execute the necessary legal documents to ensure their wishes with regard to who can make medical decisions in the case of serious illness or incapacity are clearly defined. These concerns can be addressed with careful estate planning. A properly executed will, living will, power of attorney, medical directives and healthcare proxy will go a long way to minimizing the complications during what could be one of the most stressful periods any person has to face: the serious illness or injury of a loved one.

Source: wfsu.org, "Drastically Narrowed Fla. Domestic Partnership Bill To Get New Hearing," Jessica Palombo, March 11, 2013

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