MESSAGE FROM RAND HOCH, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
Municipal Elections will be held throughout Palm Beach County on Tuesday,
March 12. Following interviews with numerous candidates, the Palm Beach County
Human Rights Council Voters Alliance has made the following endorsements:
● Boynton Beach City Commission (Seat 3) - Allan Hendricks
● Pahokee Mayor - J.P. Sasser
● Palm Beach Gardens City Council (District 1) - David Levy
● West Palm Beach City Commission (District 5) - Gregg Weiss
Rest assured, we will be reminding eligible voters about the importance of these municipal elections – especially since voters will have the opportunity to elect another openly gay public official, Allan Hendricks.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has been extremely busy in the last few months, working on non-discrimination policies and domestic partnership benefits in the cities of in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Delray Beach, as well in the town of Palm Beach.
Significant progress has been made in Boca Raton. Following a series of public records requests – and some adverse media attention stemming from PBCHRC’s “Boca Bigots Run City Hall” campaign – the tide appears to be turning in favor of LGBT equality in Boca Raton.
In November, 17-year-old Boca Raton resident Tyler Morrison addressed the Boca Raton City Council, urging them to update their nondiscrimination policies to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression,” and to
offer domestic partnership benefits. As a result of Tyler’s passionate plea, the Boca Raton City Council directed city staff to look into what other communities had done and report back with the results.
In December, the Boca Raton City Council unanimously voted to appoint Tyler to the City’s Community Relations Board, making him Florida’s youngest openly gay public official.
PBCHRC also reached out to Tyler, who has agreed to serve on PBCHRC’s Board of Directors.
At his first meeting on the Community Relations Board, Tyler convinced his colleagues to vote unanimously to request the Boca Raton City Council amend the Community Relations Board’s enabling ordinance to cover “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression."
Tyler continues to work with the Community Relations Board in an effort to get them to urge the City Council (1) to rescind Boca Raton City Ordinance No 5161, which allowed the City of Boca Raton to strip its municipal employees of all avenues of legal recourse in cases of employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression," (2) revise all city nondiscrimination policies to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual
orientation” and “gender identity or expression” and, (3) to provide the full range of domestic partnership benefits to Boca Raton municipal employees.
In January, Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie reached out to PBCHRC seeking to work together to “move Boca Raton into the 21st century.” At a meeting at my condo, she pledged to work to have the City Council follow the
lead of the Village of Wellington by prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” and implementing the full range of domestic partnership benefits.
As a result of the advocacy of Tyler Morrison and Deputy Mayor Haynie, PBCHRC is very optimistic that things will improve in the near future for Boca Raton’s LGBT municipal employees.
On December 26, 2012, the Palm Beach Daily News (“the Shiny Sheet”) published a comprehensive article entitled “Officials cite cost as main reason for not offering domestic partnership benefits.” The article addressed the efforts made by PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele, urging the town’s officials to offer domestic partnership benefits. PBCHRC continues to work with the town’s elected officials and administrators and we are somewhat hopeful that domestic partnership benefits will be offered by year’s end.
In January, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits and Constitutional Tax Collector Anne Gannon announced programs by which their employees whose domestic partners are covered on their health care plans would be paid a cash stipends to help offset the federal taxes which they pay on the imputed value of their partners’ health care benefits. (Federal law exempts opposite-sex married couples are from those taxes). Port Commissioner Wayne Richards has taken the lead on implementing a similar tax equity program for employees of the Port of Palm Beach.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio has directed her staff to work on a more comprehensive tax equity proposal for her city’s municipal employees. Palm Beach County School Board Member Karen Brill is taking the lead with the school board to determine if a similar program can be instituted for school district employees.
On February 14th, PBCHRC Vice President Jess Blackman sent a letter to Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor Burt Premuroso, asking him work with his colleagues on the city council to implement domestic partnership health insurance benefits. (Palm Beach Gardens has offered “non-economic” domestic partnership benefits such as use of sick leave and bereavement leave for many years.) If long-time PBCHRC supporter David Levy is returned to the city council in the March 12 election, PBCHRC hopes Palm Beach Gardens will move forward with domestic partnership health insurance in time for open enrollment next Fall.
Later in February, PBCHRC discovered that David Hardin, the former-City Manager of Delray Beach and a rabid homophobe, never revised the city’s nondiscrimination policies to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual
orientation," despite a clear direction from the Delray Beach City Commission to do so - back in 2006. We have been in touch with current and former city officials concerning this “oversight” and have requested them to update the
city’s Administrative Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying to include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”
After more than a dozen years, significant progress is finally being made at Florida Atlantic University on equality issues for LGBT faculty, students and staff. School administrators and the United Faculty of Florida are currently in
negotiations on how best to ensure that lesbian and gay employees have equal access to the same family benefits that opposite-sex married employees have long enjoyed. Although the collective bargaining agreement has not been finalized, the parties are close to agreeing on redefining the term “spouse” to include domestic partners. Additionally, the administration is considering the addition of "gender identity and expression" to its nondiscrimination regulations. (FAU added "sexual orientation" to its nondiscrimination regulations in 2012). Kudos go out to FAU Professor Allan Barsky for his tireless efforts on behalf of FAU’s LGBT community.
In other matters:
The Council’s updated website (pbchrc.org) has proven to be very popular. It is fully accessible on Apple mobile devices and has many new features, including links to our Facebook page (PBCHRC) and our Twitter account (PBCHRC). Please use the links to follow us on both Facebook and Twitter.
As you can see, much work remains to be done and we greatly appreciate your support in our endeavors.
In the 25 years since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBT community. In recognition of our work, Scott Kent is working on plans for a very special 25th Anniversary celebration later this year.
Rest assured, we will continue to keep you posted.
President and Founder
View the complete list of candidates endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council