Friday, November 25, 2016

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance Endorsements - 2017

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance endorses candidates who support LGBT initiatives and privacy rights. Endorsements of candidates are made upon consideration of:

  • How a candidate has voted on LGBT issues
  • How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBT Community 

__________________

The following candidate has been endorsed by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance in his campaign for re-election in 2017:

Boynton Beach City Commission (Dist. 4) - Joe Casello

 __________________

The following candidates who have been endorsed by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance were elected (or re-elected) to hold office in 2016:

U.S. Congressman - Ted Deutch
U.S. Congresswoman- Lois Frankel
U.S. Congressman - Alcee Hastings

State Senator - Jeff Clemens
State Senator - Bobby Powell
State Senator - Kevin Rader 

State Representative - Joseph Abruzzo
State Representative - Lori Berman
State Representative - Bill Hager
State Representative - Al Jacquet
State Representative - David Silvers
State Representative - Matt Willhite

County Commissioner - Mack Bernard
County Commissioner - Mary Lou Berger
County Commissioner - Dave Kerner
County Commissioner - Hal Valeche

Clerk of the Circuit Court - Sharon Bock
Property Appraiser -  Dorothy Jacks
Public Defender - Carey Haughwout
Sheriff - Ric Bradshaw
State Attorney - Dave Aronberg
Supervisor of Elections - Susan Bucher
Tax Collector - Anne Gannon

School Board Member - Frank Barbieri
School Board Member - Barbara McQuinn
School Board Member - Chuck Shaw

Port Commissioner - Jean Enright
Port Commissioner - Wayne Richards
Port Commissioner - Katherine Waldron

Circuit Court Judge - Dina Keever
County Court Judge - Marni Bryson

Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member - Pat Edmonson
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member - Rob Long

Boynton Beach Mayor Steven B. Grant

Lake Worth Mayor - Pam Triolo
Lake Worth City Commissioner - Scott Maxwell
Lake Worth City Commissioner - Andy Amoroso

Rivera Beach City Councilwoman - Tonya Davis Johnson

Wellington Village Councilman - John McGovern
Wellington Village Councilman - Michael Napoleone

West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Sylvia Moffett
West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Paula Ryan
West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Shanon Materio

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

PBCHRC President's Message - November 2016




 
November 9, 2016

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council's activists -- all volunteers -- have interviewed hundreds of candidates for public office. We have done this to educate public officials, make endorsements and take action to elect people who will take steps to change laws and policies to provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the local LGBT community. As part of our efforts, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has been working diligently for decades to identify more LGBT-supportive residents and get them registered to vote.  

During 2016, there were more PBCHRC-supportive volunteers than ever before. They participated in our voter identification, early voting, vote-by-mail and get-out-the-vote campaigns. We also had a record number of our supporters volunteering for individual candidates than ever before. Additionally, an impressive cadre of LGBT-suportive voters worked with the countywide coordinated campaign to maximize voter turnout here.

As a result of these efforts -- and your participation -- the following candidates were elected (or re-elected) to office yesterday:

U.S. Congressman - Alcee Hastings
U.S. Congresswoman - Lois Frankel
U.S. Congressman- Ted Deutch
State Senator - Bobby Powell
State Senator - Jeff Clemens
State Representative - Matt Willhite
State Representative - Lori Berman
County Commissioner - Hal Valeche
County Commission - Dave Kerner
County Commissioner - Mary Lou Berger
Port of Palm Beach Commissioner - Jean L. Enright
School Board Member - Barbara McQuinn
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member -Pat Edmonson
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member- Rob Long   
 
Congratulations to all!  (A complete list of the 43 candidates endorsed by the PBCHRC Voters Alliance who have been elected (or re-elected) this year can be found by clicking here.)
 
As a result of our successes in electing LGBT-supportive candidates, throughout Palm Beach County, it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation. In addition, there are now more than 110 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies that provide Palm Beach County's LGBT residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits.  A complete list can be found by clicking here and selecting  the "Laws & Policies" tab.

In addition to mobilizing for the elections, PBCHRC has been working with both Palm Beach County and the City of West Palm Beach to enact ordinances to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors (a discredited method of counseling based on the erroneous assumption that LGBT identities are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment).


West Palm Beach City Hall

On November 7, the West Palm Beach City Commission voted unanimously to ban conversion therapy on minors within city limits.West Palm Beach joins California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, the cities of Cincinnati, Miami Beach, Seattle and Wilton Manors; and the Village of Bay Harbor Islands; all of which have enacted similar bans. 

Thanks go out to West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, and City Commissioners Sylvia Moffett, Cory Neering, Paula Ryan, Keith James and Shanon Materio for their unwavering support of the conversion therapy ban. Special thanks go out to PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele, who is spearheading our conversion therapy ban initiative.

On the same night, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and the city commissioners officially thanked PBCHRC for the work we have done to help the city earn a perfect score on the 2016 Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The MEI, a joint project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Council, examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership's public position on equality.

West Palm Beach is one of only 60 cities nationwide to have earned a perfect score this year.

PBCHRC thanks everyone who has served on the West Palm Beach City Commission since 1998 for helping to make this national recognition possible. Special thanks go out to Mayor Muoio's LGBT liaison Robert Telford, for his successful work with the MRI application process.

Finally, PBCHRC is excited to announce that on Saturday, January 14, 2017, PBCHRC will be holding our annual Winter Fête at the home of Mason Phelps and Ron Neal in Wellington.

Our goal is to have all of the event's expenses (e.g., catering, open bar, printing and postage, entertainment, valet service, etc.) underwritten in advance by our supporters. That way, every dollar raised from ticket sales will go directly to carrying out our mission. Therefore, we are seeking donors to become underwriters by contributing $1,000. Underwriters will receive two tickets to the Winter Fête, recognition in our media and printed materials, and an invitation to a fabulous pre-party which will be held at a private home in early January. As of Election Day, the following have signed up to help underwrite the event.

Hosts 
Mason Phelps and Ron Neal
Underwriters  
Dan Berk and Javier Weicman 
David Cohen and Paul Bernabeo 
Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt 
Tom Corrigan and Craig Mitchell 
Bill Eberhardt 
Jeffrey P. Ganek 
Howard Grossman, M.D. 
Daniel S. Hall 
The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A. 
County Commissioner-elect Dave Kerner 
Wood Kinnard and Alberto Arias 
Michael Judd and Ben Small 
Sid Lesowitz and Peter Rogers 
Joseph Pubillones Interiors 
Trent Steele and Wayne Lewis 
J.P. Sasser 
Stephen Mooney and Scott Velozo 
Don Todorich - Corcoran Group R.E 
Fred Zrinscak

If you are unable to underwrite, please consider purchasing individual tickets for $125 per person. In 2016, both our Winter Fête and Summer Soirée sold out before we could even print invitations -- and it is likely this year's event will do so as well. So, if you do not want to be left out, please consider purchasing tickets at this time.

To underwrite and/or purchase tickets to PBCHRC's 2017 Winter Fête, please click here. Checks made payable to "PBCHRC" may also be send to P.O. Box 267, West Palm Beach, Florida 33402.

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBT community. With your support, we will continue to do so in the years to come - and we will keep you posted on our progress!

Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder 

P.S.  If you are surprised that I did not mention the losses of Hillary Clinton and Patrick Murphy, that is because I am still in denial. 

PBCHRC Voters Alliance Endorsed Candidates Elected in 2016

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance endorses candidates who support LGBT initiatives and privacy rights. Endorsements of candidates are made upon consideration of:
  • How a candidate has voted on LGBT issues
  • How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBT Community 
The following candidates who have been endorsed by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance were elected (or re-elected) to hold office in 2016:

U.S. Congressman - Ted Deutch
U.S. Congresswoman- Lois Frankel
U.S. Congressman - Alcee Hastings

State Senator - Jeff Clemens
State Senator - Bobby Powell
State Senator - Kevin Rader 

State Representative - Joseph Abruzzo
State Representative - Lori Berman
State Representative - Bill Hager
State Representative - Al Jacquet
State Representative - David Silvers
State Representative - Matt Willhite

County Commissioner - Mack Bernard
County Commissioner - Mary Lou Berger
County Commissioner - Dave Kerner
County Commissioner - Hal Valeche

Clerk of the Circuit Court - Sharon Bock
Property Appraiser -  Dorothy Jacks
Public Defender - Carey Haughwout
Sheriff - Ric Bradshaw
State Attorney - Dave Aronberg
Supervisor of Elections - Susan Bucher
Tax Collector - Anne Gannon

School Board Member - Frank Barbieri
School Board Member - Barbara McQuinn
School Board Member - Chuck Shaw

Port Commissioner - Jean Enright
Port Commissioner - Wayne Richards
Port Commissioner - Katherine Waldron

Circuit Court Judge - Dina Keever
County Court Judge - Marni Bryson

Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member - Pat Edmonson
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member - Rob Long

Boynton Beach Mayor Steven B. Grant

Lake Worth Mayor - Pam Triolo
Lake Worth City Commissioner - Scott Maxwell
Lake Worth City Commissioner - Andy Amoroso

Rivera Beach City Councilwoman - Tonya Davis Johnson

Wellington Village Councilman - John McGovern
Wellington Village Councilman - Michael Napoleone

West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Sylvia Moffett
West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Paula Ryan
West Palm Beach City Commissioner - Shanon Materio

Monday, November 7, 2016

West Palm Beach Bans Conversion Therapy on Minors

November 7, 2016


West Palm Beach City Hall
(West Palm Beach, Florida) At this evening's meeting, the West Palm Beach City Commission unanimously voted to prohibit licensed mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy on minors within city limits.  The ban goes into effect immediately.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), encompasses a range of discredited counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment.

The action was taken at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), the county's most effective civil rights organization. Over the past 28 years, the independent non-profit organization has succeeded in having local public officials enact more than 110 laws and policies providing equal rights, benefits and protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ)  community.

Trent photo Attorney W. Trent Steele, a longtime member of the PBCHRC Board of Directors, focused on the need to protect children from practitioners of conversion therapy.

"Conversion therapy is usually forced on minors by parents who find it impossible to accept the fact that their children identify as gay or lesbian," said  Steele. "This so-called 'treatment' is extremely harmful."

PBCHRC is partnering with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Both organizations have been successful in their efforts to protect minors from being subjected to the harms caused by conversion therapy.

"Conversion therapy is an extremely dangerous and fraudulent practice that claims to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity," said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This bogus practice is premised on the lie that LGBTQ individuals have a 'condition' that needs to be cured.  This evening, the West Palm Beach City Commission took a step in the right direction by approving this ordinance to ban this harmful practice on minors. The commission has sent a message to LGBTQ youth: 'You are perfect the way you are and do not need to be 'fixed.'"

At the first reading of the ordinance on October 24, Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist who practices in West Palm Beach, told commissioners that the practice of conversion therapy is based on two false premises.

"First, it is based on the falsehood that being gay, lesbian or transgender is a mental disorder or defect that needs to be cured, " said Needle.  "And secondly, it is based on the presumption that being LGBTQ is something that can actually be changed through therapy."

Needle, who is also an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, told city commissioners that the potential risks of conversion therapy on children include shame, guilt, depression, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends, social withdrawal, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, hostility and blame towards parents, high risk behaviors, confusion, self-harm, substance abuse and suicidal ideation.

To support her assertions, Needle provided the city with "abstracts of eleven highly regarded academic studies which empirically conclude that conversion therapy is at best ineffective, and at worst extremely harmful"

"Any ethical mental health practitioner should not attempt to cure or repair gender identity or sexual orientation through these scientifically invalid techniques," Needle stated.  "Attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity can have a devastating impact on a minor."

"I strongly believe the commission should enact this ordinance to protect children and adolescents from a practice that is far outside the bounds of any ethical psychological treatment plan," said Needle. "Passage of this ordinance will send an important message to LGBTQ youth in our city:  there is nothing wrong with your sexual orientation or gender identity."

Although Dr. Julie Herren Hamilton, a  psycholgist from Palm Beach Gardens who is a member of the South Florida Association of Christian Counselors, spoke out against the ordinance at the October 24 City Commission meeting, neither the mayor nor the city commissioners were moved.

While she did not identify herself as such, Dr. Hamilton served as the President of The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) for several years.

NARTH was a small, but well-funded for-profit organization made up of therapists who sought to diminish the rights of LGBT people by singling them out as having mental disorders. The organization advocated anti-LGBT therapy for children as young a three years old and encouraged parents to have their children marginalize and ridicule their LGBT classmates.

At a NARTH conference Dr. Hamilton organized in  West Palm Beach in 2009 drew more than 100 anti-NARTH protesters.

In 2012, the organization's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service.

During the week prior to tonight's vote, the mayor and city commissioners received dozens of e-mail petitions urging them not to enact the ban. The petitions were the work of Robert Tyler Hamilton, a coach at The Kings Academy, who is married to Dr. Julie Hamilton.  The Kings Academy is a private Christian College which refuses to prohibits the hiring of openly LGBT personnel and refuses to allow open LGBT students to attend the school.

In addition, on November 3rd, The Liberty Counsel sent letter notifying West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio that if the city enacted a ban on conversion therapy, his organization "stands ready to vindicate the rights of counselors, minors and parents."

The Liberty Counsel, a legal organization advocating for anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious liberty, has long been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Throughout the year, Muoio has made it known that banning conversion therapy on minors is one of her  priorities.

"Conversion therapy reinforces the erroneous message that being gay, lesbian or transgender is something that is wrong and needs to be fixed," said Muoio. "We are going to prohibit this junk science and put an end to the harm it can cause LGBTQ youth."

Despite the petitions and the Liberty Counsel's veiled threat, City Commissioners unanimously voted to protect LGBT youth by banning conversion therapy.

"The discredited practice of conversion therapy has long been rejected by virtually all of our nation's mainstream medical and mental health organizations" said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch. "We are grateful that Mayor Muoio and the city commissioners have enacted a law to protect LGBTQ youth from these unethical practices."

Nearly every major medical and psychological association in the country has come out in opposition to conversion therapy. These include the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American College of Physicians, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the Pan American Health Organization, the Regional Office of the World Health Organization and the World Psychiatric Association.

"The American Psychological Association has linked conversion therapy to depression, substance abuse and even suicide, and these risks are particularly acute for youth," said Carolyn Reyes, Youth Policy Counsel and Coordinator of NCLR's BornPerfect Campaign to end conversion therapy  "We applaud the efforts by the Commission to ensure that the children of West Palm Beach County are protected from these harms, and that their families aren't duped by trusted professionals to whom they turn for support during a vulnerable time."

In addition, conversion therapy has been soundly rejected by the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association and the School Social Work Association of America.

Last May, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a comprehensive report entitled "Quacks: 'Conversion Therapists,' the Anti-LGBT Right, and the Demonization of Homosexuality". (www.splcenter.org/20160525/quacks-conversion-therapists-anti-lgbt-right-and-demonization-homosexuality).

Around the nation, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati and Seattle have all banned conversion therapy.  In Florida, West Palm Beach now joins Miami, Miami Beach, Wilton Manors and Bay Harbor Islands in enacting  laws to prevent licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. Two other Florida municipalities - North Bay Village and El Portal - are considering enacting similar bans before year's end.

The West Palm Beach ban on conversion therapy - and all of the similar bans enacted to date - applies only to state-licensed therapists. Unlicensed therapists, such as those associated with faith-based groups, retain their religious freedom to engage in such work. Additionally, adults remain free to seek out conversion therapy.

Although there have been several court challenges to the constitutionality of banning conversion therapy, all have failed. On three occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the constitutionality laws banning conversion therapy for minors.

U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) have introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act to empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on conversion therapy. Specifically, the law would make sexual orientation change efforts illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and classify advertising these services or providing them in exchange for monetary compensation as fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive. The bill would also explicitly clarify that the Federal Trade Commission has the duty to enforce this provision and would further provide state attorneys general the authority to enforce it in federal court.

In addition, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Human Rights Campaign (a Washington, DC-based LGBTQ rights organization which is not affiliated with PBCHRC) filed a federal consumer fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission seeking to ban conversion therapy nationwide.

During the 2016  legislative session, State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Atlantis) introduced a bill to prohibit conversion therapy statewide (S. 258).  However, the Senate refused to take action on the bill.
 
"When it comes to protecting LGBTQ people - especially children - the city of West Palm Beach is not just going to wait for the state or the federal government to take action," said Muoio. "

Monday, October 17, 2016

West Palm Beach Earns Top Score in LGBTQ Equality

The City of West Palm Beach has earned a perfect score on the fifth annual Human Rights Campaign Foundation Municipal Equality Index (MEI) ranking of cities across the United States.

The MEI examined the LGBTQ-inclusive municipal laws, policies and services in 506 municipalities nationwide. Cities were rated based on nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.

“Our city’s perfect score demonstrates the clear-cut commitment elected officials in West Palm Beach have made to the LGBTQ community over the past 25 years,” said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council has long been Palm Beach County’s most effective civil rights organization. The independent nonprofit is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Over the years, the  Council has been responsible for the enactment of more than 110 laws and policiesproviding equal protection, rights and benefits for Palm Beach County’s LGBTQ community.

“Our city’s inclusive laws and policies attract amazing people to live andwork in West Palm Beach,” said Mayor Jeri Muoio. “West Palm Beach is a wonderful place for LGBTQ people – and others – to live, study, play, work, raise families and retire.”

Of the 20 Florida municipalities included in the MEI, only five (West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Wilton Manors) scored 100 points. Nationally, 60 cities earned perfect scores.

Thanks Muoio’s leadership – along with that of former mayors Nancy Graham and Lois Frankel — West Palm Beach always has been in the forefront of LGBTQ equality in the State of Florida

In 1990, city commissioners established the West Palm Beach Employment Practices Review Commission to recommend improvements to the city’s personnel practices and procedures. Hoch, at the time a labor lawyer who represented the city’s municipal workers unions, served as the commission’s Chairman Pro Tempore. The blue ribbon panel’s final report included recommendations to improve the work environment for the city’s lesbian and gay employees. Within months, those recommendations were unanimously adopted by the city commission.

The following year, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment. In 1992, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to provide domestic partnership benefits for municipal employees.

City leaders recognized that while the laws and policies had been put into place to help  gay and lesbian municipal employees, action also needed to be taken to address discrimination faced by the city’s lesbian and gay residents. Therefore, in 1991, the city commission voted to prohibit the use of any public facilities or any public funding to any entities which had discriminated against members of a variety of protected classes – including gays and lesbians.

In 1994, the city commission enacted the West Palm Beach Equal Opportunity Ordinance, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation. (The ordinance was amended in 2007 to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.)

Weeks after the ordinance was enacted, the local Christian Coalition collected enough signatures to hold a special election to repeal the ordinance.  However, then-Mayor Nancy Graham stepped forward to lead the “‘No on 1!” campaign to ensure that the newly enacted gay rights law remained on the books. After a bitter and divisive campaign, West Palm Beach voters soundly defeated the repeal effort 56% to 44%. This historic effort marked the first time that Florida voters defeated an anti-gay referendum.

Since marriage equality was slow in coming to Florida, during the period when same-sex marriage was prohibited, Mayor Muoio repeatedly championed laws and policies to ensure that gay and lesbian municipal employees with domestic partners received the same benefits and take home pay as married opposite employees were entitled to receive.

Even when faced with federal laws that denied workers with domestic partners benefits granted to married employees, Mayor Muoio found her way to provide them for city employees. She persuaded her colleagues to extend equal health insurance continuation coverage (COBRA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to city employees with domestic partners. She also convinced city commissioners to provide federal tax equity reimbursements for employees insuring their domestic partners, since married employees were exempt from that taxation under federal law.

Mayor Muoio also led the effort to enact the West Palm Beach Equal Benefits Ordinance, which required contractors doing business with the city to provide identical benefits to both married employees and employees with domestic partners.

Last year, the city commissioners updated the Equal Opportunity Ordinance by expanding the definition of “public accommodations” to prohibit consumer discrimination (e.g., “shopping while black”). The law also prohibits businesses in the wedding industry from discriminating against lesbian and gay couples.

When presented with opportunities to amend the state’s civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people, Florida Legislators have refused to do so.  In contrast, 22 states (and the District of Columbia) protect their residents from employment discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.  Nineteen of these states (and the District of Columbia) also provide similar protections on the basis of their gender identity.

“Since the Florida Legislature has repeatedly refused to enact LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws, it is imperative that municipal and county leaders throughout our state work diligently to enact local laws and policies providing LGBTQ Floridians with equal protections and benefits,” said Hoch.  “All LGBTQ Floridians, regardless of where they live or work, should be protected from discrimination.”
 
For an easily printable version of the MEI report for West Palm Beach, click here.

The full 2016 MEI report, including detailed scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Group threatens suit if Palm Beach County bans gay conversion therapy


WEST PALM BEACH — It’s called “conversion therapy.” Advocates of it, some of whom dismiss the term altogether, say it’s a legitimate way to help people — usually teens — rid themselves of “unwanted same sex attractions.”

Rights groups say it’s forced brainwashing that doesn’t work and harms people who didn’t need any conversion at all.

Now the Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group, is saying a planned Palm Beach County ban on such counseling for minors is unconstitutional and the group could well sue to block it.

On June 20, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, which fights discrimination, especially against lesbian/gay/bisexual/ transgenders, asked commissioners in Palm Beach County and the city of West Palm Beach to ban “conversion therapy.”

Council founder and President Rand Hoch told commissioners the practice, also known as “reparative therapy,” is “based on the erroneous assumption” that LGBT identities “are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment.”

The County Commission hasn’t yet placed the item on any agenda, Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron said this past week. County Attorney Denise Nieman said she hoped to have an opinion by the end of this week about whether a ban would survive a constitutional challenge. She did say that “there’s a number of areas of concern we have.”

Neither Bonlarron nor Nieman had a comment on the Liberty Counsel letter.

While the Liberty Counsel’s letter doesn’t say it outright, “we would consider a legal challenge,” if commissioners approve the ban, Mat Staver, an Orlando-based attorney for the group, told The Palm Beach Post.

In a letter to county commissioners, Staver said the county “has no authority to enact such an ordinance,” and even if it did, “any such ordinance would represent a blatant violation of the First Amendment’s most basic liberties.”

Liberty Counsel says it now is litigating several similar cases and has persuaded legislators in several states, including Florida, to reject state bans. Attempts in the Florida Legislature have stalled in committee.

“If the Liberty Counsel wants to come down and fight this, bring it on,” the Rights Council’s Hoch said last week from Philadelphia, where he was attending the Democratic National Convention. He said the county “absolutely” would withstand a legal challenge and that U.S. Supreme Court already has declined to hear challenges to similar bans.

After the Human Rights Council’s June 20 call for action, County Mayor Mary Lou Berger asked staff to research the idea.

On July 12, during public comment, the commission heard from Julie Hamilton, who said she was a local psychotherapist and former president of the Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity.

Hamilton said people “ a r e n o t simply born gay” and that some people can change their orientation. And she said a ban on therapy isn’t needed because therapists already are bound by various ethical rules. She said the proposed law would block help for teenagers “who are distressed by their unwanted (same sex) attraction. You are taking away hope from them.”

The Liberty Counsel letter quoted a 2014 American College of Pediatricians statement that “the scientific literature, however, is clear: Same-sex attractions are more fluid than fixed, specially for adolescents — many of whom can and do change.”

The legal threat by Liberty Counsel follows a note to commissioners from the National Task Force for Therapy Equality, based in Arlington, Va., near Washington. It says it represents “thousands of clients who formerly identify” as LGBT, as well as “tens of thousands of youth, parents and facilities who experience unwanted same-sex attractions.’

Task Force co-coordinator Christopher J. Doyle wrote that “activists labeling this counseling ‘conversion therapy’ are using scare tactics to silence youth, and their families, that seek help for sexual and gender and identify conflicts. I hope this body makes the right and fair decision to support all youth and respect the wide range and diversity of sexual values they hold.”

And commissioners heard from the South Florida Association of Christian Counselors, a group of 569 pastors, Christian leaders, and therapists and counselors, most in Palm Beach County; its board includes Palm Beach Atlantic University professor Henry Virkler. The coalition said individuals with what it calls distressing and conflicting same-sex attractions “have the right to obtain professional assistance for living a life that is incongruent with their faith, values and goals.”

Liberty Counsel says it’s a nonprofit group with offices in Orlando and Washington and in Lynchburg, Va., home of Liberty University, the evangelistic Christian college founded by Jerry Falwell. While it has no direct tie to the school, Staver is the former dean of its law school. 


Sunday, July 24, 2016

PBCHRC is well represented at the Democratic National Convention






On May 21, former PBCHRC Board Member Anne Gannon,
a longtime ally of the LGBT community who currently serves as the Constitutional Tax Collector for Palm Beach County and  
former PBCHRC Vice President and Board Member Deidre Newton, an out woman who serves as the Democratic State Committeewoman for Palm Beach County, were elected to  serve as delegates to the Democratic National Convention. 



On the following day, PBCHRC Founder and President Rand Hoch, who served as Florida's first openly gay judge in the mid-1990s, was appointed by the Clinton campaign to serve on the Democratic Party's Platform Committee. 

Former Congressman Barney Frank with Rand Hoch and Deidre Newton 


Gannon, Newton and Hoch are longtime supporters of Hillary Clinton. Last November, Clinton was endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance. 
 

Rand Hoch presents Hillary Clinton with 
 the PBCHRC Voters Alliance endorsement letter
 
Over the years, the Democratic Party has relied on PBCHRC activists to help shape the party's platform. 

In 2004, then-PBCHRC Vice President Deidre Newton was tapped by John Kerry's presidential campaign to serve on the Platform Committee. 

PBCHRC research assistant Michael Ira Thayer was recruited by the Hillary Clinton campaign to serve on the Platform Committee in 2008.

Florida's 291 member delegation to the 2016 Democratic National Convention includes 246 delegate, 18 alternates and 9 members of each of the three standing committees: Platform Committee, Rules Committee and Credentials Committee. 
The Florida delegation includes 29 LGBT Democrats, including Florida Democratic Party First Vice Chair Alan Clendenin, who is running for Hillsborough County School Board and Broward County's Democratic State Committeeman Ken Evans.