Tampa opens its domestic partnership registry at 9 a.m. today at the City Clerk's Office on the third floor of Old City Hall.
The registry is open to both gay and straight unmarried couples. Registration, which runs through 4 p.m., is first-come, first-served and costs $30. Both partners must be present to register.
Anyone who comes to register will have to get in line behind Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who has promised to be first with her long-time fiancé Josh Geary. Montelione's office is a few steps from the city clerk's office.
The registry guarantees unmarried partners some of the same protections married people now enjoy, from hospital visitation to life-and-death decision-making to access to shared children. But those protections only apply within the city limits.
That hasn't kept people living outside the city from embracing the measure. City council hearings about the registry this spring brought out dozens of supporters who praised the city for taking the step.
"It affects not only the residents of the city," Riverview resident Kathy James told council members in April. "It affects us that sleep and play and worship in the city."
The city's registry will open three days before the anniversary of the June 28, 1969, riots at New York's Stonewall Inn, a gay club raided by police. That confrontation sparked the gay rights movement, which continues in the form of efforts to legalize gay marriage.
In creating the registry, city officials emphasized they aren't trying to create a de facto form of gay marriage, which is illegal in Florida.
Councilwoman Yvonne Capin said she proposed the registry to make Tampa a better place to live for her newborn grandson, Miles. She modeled Tampa's registry on one passed by Orlando earlier this year.
Tampa is one of a handful of Florida cities and counties offering protections to unmarried partners and the first on the Gulf coast. The list includes several cities and counties in South Florida as well as Gainesville.
The registry is a reminder of the contrast between the city council members and Hillsborough County commissioners in their approaches to gay and lesbian issues.
Under former Mayor Pam Iorio, the city extended insurance coverage to the unmarried partners of city employees. County commissioners have declined to do the same.
Commissioners also have banned county libraries from creating displays featuring gay pride celebrations.