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COVER STORY

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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As far back as Aug. 2010, Jacobs was quoted in Watermark as saying, “I have figured out that we need something that makes it official that some relationships are bona fide relationships, and that’s where I think the idea of domestic partnerships or civil unions have more standing.” This after taking heat for her supporting vote of Amendment 2, banning gay marriage in Florida. Activists now paint a picture of a retreating Jacobs’ showing her true, socially conservative stripes.

“We’ve been sitting on this for almost a year,” Stephens says. “We know the legal department is fine with it. We know the county comptroller has given her blessing to it. [Jacobs] has set up a meeting later in the month to let us know what her plans are, and that concerns us.”

As of Jan. 10, 86 couples had already scheduled appointments to register with the city, and more walk-ins are expected (21 will sign up on Jan. 12). The city has also invested a whopping $220 in capital outlay for the transition, mostly for a laminating machine and pockets in which to hold the registry cards. The fees will cover the costs. As it stands, the city is already utilizing the county’s public-records registry to document its domestic partnerships, according to city clerk Alana Brenner. $10 from each $30 registration fee will go toward paying for that luxury. Now supporters of the registry have to find a way to convince – or work around – Mayor Jacobs.

“She can say that she has expanded the realm of people that she’s willing to give a useless document if she wants to, but she’s absolutely not in any way proposing to expand any actual legal rights,” Mary Meeks, Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance committee member and attorney, said in a Jan. 10 statement. “We all know people who’ve had those documents and they’ve been ignored, so please don’t give me another piece of useless paper.”

Inside a spacious 15th floor condo unit in downtown’s tony Sanctuary building, Danny Humphress, 48, and Enrique de la Torre, 44, are clearly living the sort-of-married high life. Quiet music pumps around the grand piano at the center of the living room, their two dogs are nowhere to be seen (or smelled), a giant oak bar sits off to the side of the entrance. Humphress, a self-made success in software design, homeowners association president and leader of Equality Florida’s Orlando steering committee, settles into the sofa to remember how it all began.

“We were a blind date, actually,” he laughs. “A blind date for different people.”

The two met because of a prehistoric Internet connection gone wrong; a 21-year-old de la Torre, responding to someone on CompuServe, showed up at Ft. Lauderdale’s famed Copa nightclub in March 1989, only to be stiffed by his potential paramour. Meanwhile, Humphress, on his way down from his home in Daytona Beach, picked up his car phone (“believe it or not, I had a phone in my car back then”) and heard that a friend of his had a blind date waiting for him at the Copa.

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