Monday, August 24, 2015

Wellington To Draft LGBT Ordinance Supporting The County’s Policy

By Ron Bukley, Town-Crier Editor
August 21, 2015

The Wellington Village Council directed its attorney last week to draft an ordinance in support of Palm Beach County’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights ordinance.

At the Aug. 11 meeting, Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, explained his request for the council to adopt the county’s civil rights ordinance as it pertains to LGBT people, and the difficulties the village would encounter if it opted out of it.

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen had recommended opting out of the ordinance proposed by Hoch out of concern for potential liability to the village.

Hoch, whose law practice has centered on workplace issues and civil rights, asked the council to enact an ordinance informing all residents, not just village employees, about their civil rights and directing them to appropriate agencies if they seek redress.

In 2010, the Human Rights Council asked the village to include LGBT employees in its nondiscrimination policies, in compliance with the county’s equal employment opportunity ordinance, and Hoch was invited to work with the village attorney to help draft the LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, which were then adopted unanimously by the Wellington Village Council.

At a workshop in July, there was discussion of whether a municipal civil rights ordinance would be of benefit to the village.

“Civil rights laws exist to specifically identify people who have been recognized as victims of discrimination, and to specifically provide such individuals with the opportunity to have their claims investigated and adjudicated upon by independent agencies,” Hoch said. “The key word is, ‘independent.’”

He pointed out that the village’s human resources director is charged with investigating civil rights violations, but the village has the final say whether discrimination has occurred. “It’s not independent,” Hoch said. “It’s sort of allowing the potential fox to guard the henhouse.”

With the current climate in the United States Congress and Florida Legislature, Hoch said it was unlikely that pro-LGBT legislation would be forthcoming at the state and federal levels. Although people who feel that they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hoch said EEOC findings are not binding in court. “The only recourse that the village’s LGBT employees have arises from the county ordinance,” he said.

Hoch said that he was upset that Cohen had recommended opting out of the county ordinance. “Those ordinances provide you and your employees the least expensive way to resolve complaints of discrimination,” he said.

Vice Mayor John Greene said he understood Cohen’s concern of liability to the village, and that he believes that the village already has an inclusive human rights policy as an employer, but would support the county ordinance.

“I think it is important, as we have seen recently from the United States Supreme Court, there are laws changing, and we really want to eliminate discrimination at any level,” Greene said. “I think this is a step in that direction, and I will support that. I hope that we can come up with language that is acceptable to everybody.”

Hoch pointed out that other municipalities, including Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, had adopted supportive policies.

Councilman Matt Willhite said he thought it was good that other municipalities had adopted ordinances, and asked what would happen if the village did nothing, or if it modified the language of the county ordinance that Cohen was concerned with.

Hoch said he was open, as long as an ordinance included LGBT employees. “We’re not married to the language,” he said.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she had numerous friends and family closely associated with LGBT concerns.




“It has nothing to do with that, I just don’t support this as a protected class, because I don’t think someone’s sexuality is something that has anything to do with the workplace,” she said. “I don’t think someone’s sexuality is something that should be discussed in the workplace. I wouldn’t want someone to be treated poorly; I just don’t think it is a discussion that is appropriate for the working situation.”

She added that the current policy protects anyone who is being harassed for something that has nothing to do with their work.

Hoch said a friend of his had been in a job interview where he was wearing a wedding band.

“The interviewer kept asking about his wife,” he said. “He has been married to his husband for three years. It’s not sex that we’re talking about. Someone who has a picture of their family or someone who is wearing a wedding band, or someone who says, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ and you say, ‘My husband and I went fishing.’ That’s where it comes up.”

Greene made a motion, seconded by Councilman John McGovern, directing Cohen to draft language in support of the county’s LGBT ordinance and bring it back to the council by the end of the fiscal year.

The motion passed 4-1 with Gerwig dissenting.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wellington To Draft LGBT Ordinance Supporting The County’s Policy

Town Crier Staff Writer
 August 21, 2015

Wellington To Draft LGBT Ordinance Supporting The County’s Policy
The Wellington Village Council directed its attorney last week to draft an ordinance in support of Palm Beach County’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights ordinance.


At the Aug. 11 meeting, Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, explained his request for the council to adopt the county’s civil rights ordinance as it pertains to LGBT people, and the difficulties the village would encounter if it opted out of it.


Village Attorney Laurie Cohen had recommended opting out of the ordinance proposed by Hoch out of concern for potential liability to the village.


Hoch, whose law practice has centered on workplace issues and civil rights, asked the council to enact an ordinance informing all residents, not just village employees, about their civil rights and directing them to appropriate agencies if they seek redress.


In 2010, the Human Rights Council asked the village to include LGBT employees in its nondiscrimination policies, in compliance with the county’s equal employment opportunity ordinance, and Hoch was invited to work with the village attorney to help draft the LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies, which were then adopted unanimously by the Wellington Village Council.
 
At a workshop in July, there was discussion of whether a municipal civil rights ordinance would be of benefit to the village.


“Civil rights laws exist to specifically identify people who have been recognized as victims of discrimination, and to specifically provide such individuals with the opportunity to have their claims investigated and adjudicated upon by independent agencies,” Hoch said. “The key word is, ‘independent.’”

He pointed out that the village’s human resources director is charged with investigating civil rights violations, but the village has the final say whether discrimination has occurred. “It’s not independent,” Hoch said. “It’s sort of allowing the potential fox to guard the henhouse.”


With the current climate in the United States Congress and Florida Legislature, Hoch said it was unlikely that pro-LGBT legislation would be forthcoming at the state and federal levels. Although people who feel that they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hoch said EEOC findings are not binding in court. “The only recourse that the village’s LGBT employees have arises from the county ordinance,” he said.


Hoch said that he was upset that Cohen had recommended opting out of the county ordinance. “Those ordinances provide you and your employees the least expensive way to resolve complaints of discrimination,” he said.


Vice Mayor John Greene said he understood Cohen’s concern of liability to the village, and that he believes that the village already has an inclusive human rights policy as an employer, but would support the county ordinance.


“I think it is important, as we have seen recently from the United States Supreme Court, there are laws changing, and we really want to eliminate discrimination at any level,” Greene said. “I think this is a step in that direction, and I will support that. I hope that we can come up with language that is acceptable to everybody.”


Hoch pointed out that other municipalities, including Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, had adopted supportive policies.


Councilman Matt Willhite said he thought it was good that other municipalities had adopted ordinances, and asked what would happen if the village did nothing, or if it modified the language of the county ordinance that Cohen was concerned with.

Hoch said he was open, as long as an ordinance included LGBT employees. “We’re not married to the language,” he said.
 
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she had numerous friends and family closely associated with LGBT concerns.


“It has nothing to do with that, I just don’t support this as a protected class, because I don’t think someone’s sexuality is something that has anything to do with the workplace,” she said. “I don’t think someone’s sexuality is something that should be discussed in the workplace. I wouldn’t want someone to be treated poorly; I just don’t think it is a discussion that is appropriate for the working situation.

She added that the current policy protects anyone who is being harassed for something that has nothing to do with their work.


Hoch said a friend of his had been in a job interview where he was wearing a wedding band.
“The interviewer kept asking about his wife,” he said. “He has been married to his husband for three years. It’s not sex that we’re talking about. Someone who has a picture of their family or someone who is wearing a wedding band, or someone who says, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ and you say, ‘My husband and I went fishing.’ That’s where it comes up.”


Greene made a motion, seconded by Councilman John McGovern, directing Cohen to draft language in support of the county’s LGBT ordinance and bring it back to the council by the end of the fiscal year.
 
The motion passed 4-1 with Gerwig dissenting.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Activist marks 27 years of fight for equality

BY CAROLYN SUSMAN
Florida Weekly correspondent
Week of August 20-25, 2015

The long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court action in June overturning bans on gay marriage liberated many to openly proclaim their joy and celebrate.

But some of those same celebrants had found coming out as gay to be a long and painful process.
Rand Photo 2013 They also may have found that once you were out, you could hit a wall of discrimination that was hard and hurtful.
Palm Beach County lawyer Rand Hoch has fought diligently over the years to bring along thousands of his gay brothers and sisters through his battle for gay rights and his openness and activism.


***

"When I started law school in the early 1980s, I toned things down a bit. I was still dating men, going to the clubs and the beach, but wasn't overly out at law school. At the time Stetson was still a Baptist school, so I didn't want to cause any problems."

And there was still fear and doubt that gays could be openly accepted practicing law.

"During my second year of school, a budget analyst for Broward County, Todd Shuttleworth, was fired for having AIDS. When he lost his job, he also lost his health insurance. I sent a letter to Alan Terl, an ACLU participating attorney who was representing Todd, offering my assistance.

"Alan called to thank me and advised me not to get involved. He feared that my association with the case could jeopardize my admission to The Florida Bar. At the time, the Florida Supreme Court had ruled that one's sexual orientation alone could not be used to deny admission to The Florida Bar. But the Court did not rule on whether a 'practicing homosexual' could be admitted. And I had been practicing for quite some time."

But practicing and being openly accepted are two different things, especially concerning employment. Mr. Hoch found this out while working as a clerk for a law firm in North Palm Beach years ago

He had assumed the firm tacitly acknowledged his sexual orientation when members gave him two weeks to go to San Francisco and attend the Democratic National Convention.

"Now, most people know that political conventions last a few days, not two weeks," he notes. "So when the firm said that would be fine, I thought that maybe this was the firm's way of saying, 'It's OK to be gay and work for us.' "

He was very wrong.

He was offered a job with the firm after graduation; that was the good news.

But when he decided he didn't want to "actively hide" his personal life, he asked how his homosexuality would affect eventually becoming a partner.

That brought the bad news.

"I watched the color drain from his face, and then I watched the color return as he said, 'We've never had that problem before.' This was not a good sign.

"He asked how my being gay might have an impact on the firm.

"I replied that I didn't intend on asking male clients to dance at the Christmas party, but, if there was going to be a firm party or retreat, I would like to be able to bring along my significant other, if I had one. As it turns out, one of the firm's biggest clients would probably have enjoyed dancing with me. But at the time, I didn't know he was gay."

Eventually, Mr. Hoch negotiated a graceful exit that allowed him to say he had turned down their job offer when questioned about why he left.

This was a big turning point in his career.

"Having been a victim of discrimination based solely on my sexual orientation, I refocused my legal studies to labor law," he said.

"After graduation, I went to work for a labor law firm in West Palm Beach, representing workers and unions. Based on what had happened with the other law firm, I decided not to volunteer information about my sexuality, but I decided that I would be truthful if asked. They didn't ask."

He went on to become a founder in 1988 of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. He has twice served as the organization's president and has helped to spearhead efforts that have greatly expanded gay rights, particularly in Palm Beach County.

"Over the past 27 years, PBCHRC has been the impetus for enacting close to 100 LGBT-inclusive laws and policies," Mr. Hoch says.

"Personally, I am most proud of orchestrating the successful campaign in 1989 and 1990 to have the County Commission amend the County's Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and marital status.

"Until that was done, a gay rights law had only been enacted one time in Florida, in Dade County, and it was repealed within a matter of months. So, our law remains the oldest LGBT rights law in effect in Florida today."

What he doesn't mention in his biography and public statements is his effort to see that there is strong leadership trained to carry on this battle.

"After having the honor to have been mentored by Rand Hoch I can honestly say he believes in supporting the next generation to continue the work above all else," says Carly Elizabeth Cass, a council board member.

"Since I joined the board of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council last year, he has repeatedly expressed the belief that 'a good leader is always looking for his or her replacement,'" she says.

"Rand does not let his ego get in the way of the work. He has expressed and shown the importance of asking for help, and always giving credit where credit is due. Out of everything he has taught me, perhaps the most important is that there is a process as to how things should be done and it must be respected.

"Rand is not the type of person to jump the gun, rather he is one of the most diplomatic leaders I have ever met.

"He will exhaust all resources before taking controversial action. With all that being said, Rand has a lot more on his to-do list before stepping down from his position within the community."


To read the complete article, click here.
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

PBCHRC Launches "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" Campaign Celebration

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council formally launched our "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome" campaign in Palm Beach last Wednesday night.



Dozens of  PBCHRC supporters - including Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and Palm Beach County's Constitutional Tax Collector Anne Gannon - attended  the celebration at Meat Market Palm Beach.  The event was produced  by Altima Palm Beach, a local public relations firm that donated its services to PBCHRC.

The campaign serves to encourage local municipalities to enact LGBT-inclusive civil rights laws to not only educate local residents and business owners of their civil rights and responsibilities, but also to help attract more jobs, revenue and resources to Palm Beach County.

In making relocation and expansion decisions, more and more businesses are investigating how municipalities protect their LGBT residents

Last month, Facebook announced a $1 billion investment in a data center in Fort Worth, Texas.  The project is expected to generate $21 million in taxes for the city over the next 10 years.  Before committing to Fort Worth, Facebook reviewed the civil rights ordinances of all of the potential locations for the data center specifically to see if there were LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances.  Fort Worth's  civil rights ordinance had been on the books for 15 years.

At the start of this year, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Palm Beach County were the only local governments with LGBT-inclusive civil rights laws.  Thanks to PBCHRC's efforts, additional civil rights ordinances have since been enacted this year in Boynton Beach, Greenacres and Delray Beach.

Last Tuesday evening, the Wellington Village Council also voted to direct the Village Attorney to draft an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance prior to the end of the Village's fiscal year in October.  Four of the five Council Members spoke out in favor of the ordinance.

In Haverhill, the Town Council recently held a workshop on a similar civil rights ordinance.  Council Member Lawrence Gordon is working with the Town Attorney on the specific language, and the ordinance is expected to come before the Town Council in late August.

Lake Clarke Shores Vice Mayor Gregory Freebold, who attended the celebration in Palm Beach, has taken the lead in having his town enact a LGBT-inclusive civil rights.   Freebold is working closely with PBCHRC Board Member Hutch Floyd, a town resident.  The Town Council is expected to vote on the ordinance within the next several weeks.

Working together with elected officials, PBCHRC has changed the face of Palm Beach County for the better.  However, while marriage equality is now the law of the land in all 50 states, there is no federal or state law that protects LGBT Floridians from discrimination.

"Thanks to the local civil rights laws and policies we have enacted, Palm Beach County is one of the best places in the world for LGBT people to live, study, work, raise families and retire," Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana told PBCHRC supporters.

PBCHRC  will continue our work locally so that we can help secure equal rights and benefits for LGBT people.

SAVE THE DATE 
There will be a PBCHRC Happy Hour for supporters on the evening of Tuesday, September 22nd at Wine Scene, 501 Fern Street in West Palm Beach.  Details will be sent soon.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Delray Beach Becomes 5th Palm Beach County City to Enact LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance




(Delray Beach, Florida) -- At this evening's meeting, the Delray Beach City Commission members unanimously voted to enact a civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, genetic information, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, pregnancy, familial status, or age. 

The ordinance was proposed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local nonprofit organization which is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Delray Beach joins local cities Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth and West Palm Beach which have enacted similar ordinances since 1994.

"Delray Beach understands the concepts of equality, diversity and inclusion," said Palm Beach County Human Rights Council volunteer Marcie Hall, the Delray Beach resident who led the organization's effort for the ordinance. "Tonight our city leaders have made it clear that everyone is valued for the diversity they bring to Delray Beach."

"Delray Beach is a first-class city with a diverse community," said Mayor Cary Glickstein, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights. "This ordinance lets people know that Delray Beach is open for business for everyone and that we oppose prejudice and discrimination of all kinds."

"While marriage equality is now the law of the land across America, the state of Florida Florida lacks a statewide laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations," said Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.  "Therefore, until Congress or the Florida Legislature takes action, local LGBT advocacy rights organizations such as PBCHRC must continue to work with county and municipal leaders to protect our community from discrimination."

In addition to five cities in Palm Beach County, only 13 other
Florida municipalities - Atlantic Beach, Dunedin, Gainesville,  Gulfport, Key West, Leesburg, Miami, Miami Beach, Oakland Park, Orlando, Tampa, Venice and Wilton Manors -- have enacted  LGBT-inclusive municipal civil rights ordinances.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is currently working to convince elected officials in Lake Clark Shores, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington to enact similar ordinances.

Although Florida has sixty-seven counties, only ten - Palm Beach, Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties -  have LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances.

"Fifty-seven counties and 393 municipalities in Florida have yet to take steps to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community," said Hoch.  "Despite the fact that LGBT people have achieved marriage equality, much work remains to be done to assure equal rights and protections for LGBT Floridians."

Friday, June 12, 2015

President's Message - LGBT Pride Month - June 2015

June 2015

Another LGBT Pride Month is here and there is so much to celebrate for LGBT people in Palm Beach County.

Rand Photo 2013 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. Our public school students are protected from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And unmarried lesbian and gay couples can register as domestic partners and enjoy limited benefits.

All Floridians should enjoy the same civil rights that we have in Palm Beach County.

While we have been celebrating marriage equality in Florida since January, with a favorable Supreme Court decision any day now, lesbians and gay men across America will be celebrating nationwide marriage equality.

PBCHRC hopes that the Supreme Court decision will provide the momentum needed to pass a statewide LGBT rights bill. For the seventh year in a row, Equality Florida’s proposed Competitive Workforce Act died without any action taken by the Florida Legislature. In fact, from 2009 through 2015, there has never even been a vote, a committee hearing or even an official workshop on the Equality Florida’s proposed LGBT rights bill.

In contrast, when PBCHRC was running with a similar bill in 2008, the Senate Commerce Committee not only held a hearing on our gay rights bill, it passed the bill by a 7-1 bipartisan vote. However, the bill died shortly thereafter. The following year PBCHRC was told by key legislators and lobbyists that there was no chance of our bill passing in the foreseeable future. Therefore, we stopped spending our limited funds on this doomed legislation and EQFL has run with it since 2009.

Hopefully the forthcoming momentum will assist EQFL in finally enacting the first LGBT-inclusive bill in Florida history. But until that happens, PBCHRC will continue work locally to ensure that Palm Beach County remains one of the best places in the world for LGBT people to live, work, play, study and retire.

Earlier this year, PBCHRC launched our "Palm Beach County: You’re Welcome” campaign to encourage local municipalities to enact LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances. So far this year, two new ordinances have been enacted. Boynton Beach and Greenacres have 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). Local municipal LGBT inclusive civil rights ordinances have long been in effect in both Lake Worth and West Palm Beach.


PBCHRC Board Members Jess Blackman, Hutch Floyd, Rae Franks and JP Sasser - and PBCHRC volunteer Marcie Hall - have begun working on municipal civil rights ordinances ordinances in Delray Beach, Lake Clarke Shores, Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington. As PBCHRC Past President, I am also working with the City of Lake Worth to update existing ordinances by making them LGBT inclusive.

For several months, PBCHRC has been working the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to update the Palm Beach County Ordinance for Equal Opportunity to Housing and Places of Public Accommodation to provide for a more expansive definition of "public accommodation." We expect the amendments to be voted on later this summer. Once the county ordinance is amended, then the West Palm Beach City Commission is expected to amend the City's Equal Opportunity Ordinance accordingly.

As high school graduation season was about to begin, PBCHRC Board Member Carly Cass was informed that certain high schools sent out “Graduation Dress Guidelines” prohibiting female students from wearing pants to graduation. Since this is in clear violation of the School District policy “Protecting Students From Harassment and Discrimination,” I contacted School Board General Counsel Julie Ann Rico. Shortly thereafter, her office sent the following directive to all high school principals:

As you are preparing students for graduation it is important to remember that dress code requirements from all schools are to be gender neutral. As an example, it is not acceptable to prohibit women from wearing pants. Any questions or concerns about this legal requirement should be directed to the Office of General Counsel.
  
Our relationship with the school board and the school district remains strong. As the process of hiring a new superintendent was underway, a search committee forum focused exclusively on LGBT issues was held, thanks in great part to the efforts of PBCHRC supporter Donald Cavanaugh. PBCHRC Board Members Meredith Ockman, Carly Cass and I participated. PBCHRC looks forward to working with newly-hired superintendent, Dr. Robert Avossa, who starts work this month.

While I am on the topic of education, late last month PBCHRC presented the inaugural Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award to Ethan Kennedy. The scholarship is named after Dan Hall, who has served as PBCHRC’s treasurer for the past 25 years. Ethan, who recently graduated from Oxford Academy, founded and served as president of his school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). He was also responsible for implementing the school's participation in the National Day of Silence, a day of action in which students vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools. Ethan will be attending New College of Florida, where he plans to study Political Science and Women's/Gender Studies.

And as long as I am on the topic of awards, I want to thank the Harvey Milk Foundation for presenting me (along with five other LGBT leaders from South Florida) with the organization’s inaugural Diversity Honors Award at wonderful gala held at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. PBCHRC also wishes to thank two longtime supporters - Real Estate Consultant Don Todorich and Joseph Pubillones Interiors for providing us with limousines service for the night.

Our Board of Directors also extends thanks to James Tigani and Mark Bennett for opening up their Palm Beach home for a party recognizing PBCHRC’s achievements over the years. The event was organized by long term PBCHRC Volunteer Scott Kent, who was assisted by PBCHRC Past President Jamie Foreman-Plakas and PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele. It was a fun evening and we received several thousand dollars in contributions from a handful of our major donors.

Robert Telford, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio’s liaison to the LGBT community, recently informed PBCHRC that for the first time, the city 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.

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ethan Kennedy receives PBCHRC's Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award

Ethan Kennedy has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.  Kennedy is a senior at Oxbridge Academy and lives in Wellington, Florida.

PBCHRC Treasurer Dan Hall and Ethan Kennedy 
 
Kennedy is the founder and current president of Oxford Academy's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA).  Over the years, he has demonstrated his commitment to advocacy and his ability to be an effective organizer.  As a participant of Creating Change 2014, the nation's largest gathering of activists, organizers, and leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, he was able to put his leadership skills into action.  Making the most of this experience, he set off to create a safe and accepting environment for LGBTQ students by working closely with the faculty and staff at his school.

He is also responsible for implementing the school's participation in the National Day of Silence, a day of action in which students vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment in schools.

The Social Justice Award is named after Daniel S. Hall, a local attorney who manages a financial counseling company.  Hall has served as the Treasurer of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council since 1990 and is its longest serving board member.  As a father of three, an activist, and a mentor of gay youth, Hall has always had a strong interest in education. The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, awards the annual scholarship to local college bound high school seniors who have demonstrated  an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

"Ethan exemplifies the new generation of LGBTQ activists, who will help bring our nation together on our issues which, unfortunately, divide America today," said Hall.  "The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is proud to be able to help him pursue a college degree."

"I am honored to be receiving this scholarship. I plan on continuing my activism work for the LGBTQ community in the following years, and winning this scholarship has given me the confidence that I'm on the right track to making a difference," said Kennedy. "I cannot thank my mom and family enough for supporting me as I enter the next chapter of my life."

Kennedy will be attending New College of Florida where he plans to study Political Science and Women's/Gender Studies