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Separate, not equal

Orlando's same-sex couples celebrate the city's new domestic-partnership registry, but a fumble by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs dampens the mood

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“It’s an eventuality,” she says. “The level of tragedy may differ, but we’re humans and we’re going to get hurt at some point; we’re going to get sick at some point.”

“What I said to somebody at the courthouse is that, ‘I’m so grateful for this ordinance, I will sign up for it on day one, but I hope I never have to use it.’ It’s tragic stuff. It’s tragic stuff.”

For Drumb, it’s more a matter of finally achieving basic rights so she can move on to other causes about which she’s concerned, like homelessness and hunger. Until then, she’ll continue to participate actively in the cause, even if begrudgingly.

“I go back and forth about playing the game and writing the speech [for City Council] and getting up there and thanking them and praising them, even though I’m terrified – and doing the Human Heart and the courthouse and all this advocacy stuff about human rights,” she says. “Then there’s this other side that just sort of lashes out and really resents it. Whose business is it out there? Why do I have to parade it all there? I’m not protesting when two 18-year-olds marry each other because they knock each other up, and the morals of that. Or someone gets married for the eighth time. I’m not there judging that or protesting that.”

On Jan. 2, Randy Stephens, executivedirector of the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida, sent out an “urgent” call to arms for a Jan. 9 town hall meeting centering on the fate of the domestic partner registry in Orange County.

“This process has dragged out for over a year and there are indications that Mayor Jacobs is wavering,” read the release.

The idea that a Republican politician in a non-partisan, municipal office would opt for a partisan, anti-gay position wasn’t new to Orlando residents with history in this town. In 2002, following her 1998 decision to allow the flying of rainbow flags downtown in accordance with gay pride, then-Mayor Glenda Hood chose to defer to the minority and vote against the historic Chapter 57 anti-discrimination ordinance upon which the current registry is built. Behind the scenes she may have been building popular consensus, but considering her ambitions for higher office – Hood soon became secretary of state under Gov. Jeb Bush – the low, socially conservative road was the safest bet. That may be the hand that Jacobs is now playing. At issue, according to gay proponents, is coverage of Orlando’s 250,000 residents versus coverage of more than one million potential participants should the county sign on.

According to a Jan. 4 Orlando Sentinel report, Jacobs had so far been dissatisfied with her fact-finding mission on the registry, yet another of her efforts not to “rubber stamp” public policy. Though she intends to meet with gay leaders on Jan. 26, some are already starting to question what her intentions are.

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