PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Same-sex couples living in Punta Gorda are celebrating a new city ordinance.
The ordinance passed unanimously in a City Council meeting Wednesday morning, granting same-sex and heterosexual couples living together some of the same rights as married couples.
"This has given me so much relief, I can't stop crying," said Lorrie Loop, who lives with her female partner in Punta Gorda.
Effecitve immediately, couples can file for domestic partnership. Registrants have the right to visit their partner in the hospital, make health care decisions, make burial or cremation arrangements, become legal guardians of each others' children and be notified as "next of kin" in case of emergency.
Council chambers was packed with people wearing red in support of the ordinance during Wednesday's meeting, but several religious leaders voiced their opposition to the measure.
"The bible is clear. It says marriage is honorable and all in the bed undefiled, but warmongers and adulterers God will judge," said Marc Knoedler, a pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in North Port. "It's a harsh verse, but love requires me to say that verse applies not just to homosexual couples, but also to others living together without the benefit of marriage."
Both sides of the argument believe religion plays a role.
"As one of the pastors spoke, he speaks of love. I can't see jesus entering here and saying 'no' to us," Loop said.
The domestic partnerships will only be recognized in Punta Gorda. Same-sex marriage is not recignized in Florida, though several cities and counties recognize domestic partnerships.