MESSAGE FROM RAND HOCH, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER
January 7, 2015
Twenty-five years ago, there was not a single law in effect providing equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender Floridians. (While a gay rights ordinance had been enacted in Dade County in January 1977, it was repealed by voters in June 1978).
Today, our state still lacks any statewide laws providing equal protections for — or equal benefits to — LGBT Floridians.
In 1989, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Democratic Club (“ACDC”) jointly asked the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to amend the County’s Fair Housing Ordinance to prohibit discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing and public accommodations. On January 16, 1990, the day after the Martin Luther King Holiday, Commissioners met to address our request.
Dozens of people spoke out to urge the Commissioners to vote for — or against — the amendment. I was fortunate to be the last speaker.
Invoking the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law”— a concept so important to our nation, that it is literally carved in stone above the entrance to the United State Supreme Court — I asked the Commissioners to take a stand by protecting our community from discrimination.
And they did.
The Palm Beach County Fair Housing Ordinance (which now includes not only “sexual orientation”, but also “gender identity or expression”) remains the oldest LGBT civil rights law on the books in Florida.
Twenty-five years later, I watched the first same-sex wedding held in Palm Beach County. Shortly after midnight on January 6, 2015, Palm Beach County Constitutional Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock performed a marriage ceremony for longtime PBCHRC supporters Michael Edmondson and Keith Musbach.
Shortly thereafter, Clerk Bock married dozens of other lesbian and gay couples at the Courthouse in Delray Beach. Later that morning at West Palm Beach City Hall, Mayor Jeri Muoio officiated at the wedding of local residents Matthew Chambers and Will Davis.
As a community, we have come so far in the past 25 years.
So many dedicated LGBT activists and allies have worked diligently with public officials to successfully enact more than 75 local laws and policies that provide equal protection and benefits to Palm Beach County's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
With the addition of marriage equality, LGBT people in Palm Beach County enjoy all of the rights and benefits available anywhere. As a result, Palm Beach County is one of the best places in the world for LGBT people to live, study, work, socialize and retire.
And that is something we can all be very proud of.
Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBT community. Rest assured, we will continue to do so.
Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder
View the complete list of candidates endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio officiates wedding of Matthew Chambers and Will Davis
Photo by Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post