MESSAGE FROM RAND HOCH, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
It has been an incredible summer for LGBT Americans.
On the national level, marriage equality is now the law of the land for all LGBT people across America. Additionally, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) now stands ready to help LGBT people who have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
But the help being offered by the EEOC is not enough. Federal, state and local laws expressly prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people are sorely needed.
Last month, the federal Equality Act to specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was introduced in Congress. Although there are 195 sponsors who are Democrats - including Palm Beach County's Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy - not a single Republican has signed on to support the bill. So, the likelihood of the Equality Act becoming law before the 2016 elections is remote.
Here at home, Equality Florida will be trying for the eighth consecutive year to get some traction on their proposed Competitive Workforce Act, which, if enacted, would include sexual orientation and gender identity in our state's civil right and fair housing acts. The bill died in the 2015 legislative session without a hearing and a vote - just as it has every year since Equality Florida first introduced it. While incremental progress is being made, with the current legislative leadership, the likelihood of passage of the bill in 2016 remains as remote as ever.
Unlike Floridians living in approximately 90% of Florida's 67 counties, Palm Beach County's LGBT residents are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. And, in contrast to many other civil rights ordinances in Florida, every civil rights ordinance in Palm Beach County expressly protects LGBT people from discrimination.
Yet, we are not resting on our successes over the past 27 years. PBCHRC continues to work diligently to strengthen our county and municipal civil rights laws.
We recently launched our latest initiative - the "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign. Close to 100 PBCHRC supporters celebrated the campaign kick-off at Meat Market in Palm Beach. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage local municipalities to enact LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances.
So far this year, three new ordinances have been enacted. Boynton Beach, Greenacres and Delray Beach have all enacted LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances. (Special thanks go out to PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman and Greenacres City Councilwoman Paula Bousquet for their successful work in Greenacres, and to PBCHRC volunteer Marcie Hall for her work in Delray Beach.)
PBCHRC Board Member Hutch Floyd, a Lake Clarke Shores resident, and Secretary Rae Franks have been working for the past few months with Lake Clark Shores Vice Mayor Greg Freebold and Town Council Members Robert Shalhoub and Val Rodriguez on an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance for the town. The town council is expected to hold its initial vote on the ordinance later this month.
In August, PBCHRC Board Member (and former Mayor of Pahokee) J.P. Sasser and I attended the Wellington Village Council meeting where the vote was 4-1 to direct the village attorney to draft an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance. Thanks go out to Mayor Bob Margolis, Vice Mayor John Green and Councilmen John T. McGovern and Matt Willhite who all spoke out -- and voted -- in favor of PBCHRC's request for the ordinance. Village Councilwoman Anne Gerwig cast the sole "no" vote. At her request, in late August I met with her to discuss the ordinance; however, it remains to be seen whether she will continue her opposition when the ordinance comes up for initial reading on September 10.
In Haverhill, Vice Mayor Lawrence Gordon asked the Town Council to enact an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance. On September 1, longtime PBCHRC supporter and Haverhill resident Charlie Fredrickson and I addressed the Town Council. Vice Mayor Gordon's request is now headed to the Code and Ordinance's Committee for consideration later this month.
PBCHRC Board Member Jamie Foreman and I continue to work with Lake Worth Mayor Pam Triolo and Vice Mayor Pro Tem Andy Amoroso to strengthen the city's existing civil rights ordinances.
PBCHRC recently approached the South Florida Water Management District, which has employees spread out over 16 Florida counties, to update its Equal Opportunity and Harassment Policy to prohibit discrimination based on "gender identity or expression."
PBCHRC Secretary Rae Franks and I attended the August meeting of the Palm Beach County League of Cities when they discussed an amendment to the Palm Beach County Ordinance for Equal Opportunity to Housing and Places of Public Accommodation which PBCHRC had drafted. The League had no objection and the ordinance was unanimously approved on first reading on August 18. The final vote is set for September 22, and, that evening, PBCHRC will recognize the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners for their leadership on civil rights over the years.
The September 22 event for the County Commissioners is a happy hour, which will be held at Wine Scene, near CityPlace in West Palm Beach. We expect more than 100 people to attend, and we hope you can make it. Get more information or RSVP for this free event online.
Also, please visit the event's Facebook page to show that you will be attending. Please feel free use the "Invite" tab on the event page to invite your friends.
Our relationship with the Palm Beach County's School Board and School District remains strong. PBCHRC Board Member Carly Cass did a presentation on bullying issues faced by LGBT students for the school district in mid-summer. PBCHRC Board Members Meredith Ockman and Carly Cass also participated in the August "Train the Trainer" session entitled "LGBTQ 101: Moving the Margins," which was sponsored by ChildNet Palm Beach.
Robert Telford, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio's liaison to the LGBT community, recently informed PBCHRC that, for the first time, the city will participate in the 2015 Municipal Equality Index (MEI). MEI, which is coordinated by the Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign, examines the laws, policies, and services of municipalities and rates them on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work there. Last year, the MEI rated 353 cities from across the United States. The 16 Florida municipalities which participated in 2014 were Cape Coral, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Jacksonville, Miami, Miami Beach, Miami Shores, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pembroke Pines, Port Saint Lucie, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and, of course, Wilton Manors.
SAVE THE DATES
On Saturday evening, January 16, 2016, PBCHRC will hold our Winter Fête. The gala will be held at the historic 1920s Palm Beach estate of Bill Eberhardt. Thanks go out to Bill Eberhardt and to longtime PBCHRC supporter Scott Kent, who will be producing the gala. More information about underwriting opportunities and tickets sales will be provided soon.
PBCHRC will be joining other LGBT and allied organizations in working on Habitat for Humanity's Pride House next year. Construction is currently set for the weekend of February 6, 2016 and if you would like to help out, please contact PBCHRC Board Member Carly Cass at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Council's current projects include persuading:
Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder
View the complete list of candidates endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council