State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, yesterday introduced a bill that provides domestic partnership protections to committed couples throughout the state of Florida.

House Bill 139 (also known as the “Domestic Partnerships Act”) would grant individuals in a domestic partnership the same benefits and responsibilities currently available through marriage. State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill.

Many municipalities and businesses throughout the state have adopted workplace protections that are often the only viable means for gay and lesbian couples to attain health care benefits. According to a press release, “nearly 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies and a majority of Florida’s universities” currently offer domestic partner benefits.

“It is only sensible that we do all we can to attract and retain the best and brightest to work in Florida and to grow businesses here,” said Pafford in the press release. “By recognizing domestic partnerships, we will take a leap forward in improving our economy and the manner in which our residents are treated. It makes good economic sense, it is sound personnel policy, and it is the right thing to do.”

A bill introduced last January by state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, (dubbed the Competitive Workforce Act) aimed to prohibit all forms of discrimination in the workplace — including discrimination based on sexual orientation. That bill was never put on a state committee agenda.

Some worry that bills like Randolph’s and Pafford’s have trouble gaining traction because of the largely conservative Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott who, in his January executive order addressing diversity in state employment, excluded LGBT Floridians.

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