Wednesday, May 13, 2020

PBCHRC Charitable Foundation Announces the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award Recipients

The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation has selected three local high school seniors - Kyle Ahern, Endora Guillaume, and Theo Shusterman - to receive the 2020 Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards. The awards are presented annually to college-bound graduating seniors who have demonstrated  an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Each of the recipients will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. The organization established the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation to fund educational scholarships and other charitable endeavors.

Dan Hall photo
The Social Justice Awards are named after Daniel S. Hall, a local attorney who manages a financial counseling company. Hall, Treasurer of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council since 1990, is the Council's longest serving board member. As the father of three grown children, Hall has always had a strong interest in education. Over the years, has mentored several LGBTQ students.

Lake Worth Beach resident Kyle Ahern is a graduating senior at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. A student in the Communication Arts Department, Vice President of his graduating class, Kyle served as the Editor-in-Chief of "Marquee", the school's yearbook.  Kyle was also Speech Captain of the Dreyfoos Speech and Debate team. In that capacity, he in speech and debate competitions throughout the nation, arguing for legislative action to ban conversion therapy and advocating for greater resources for queer victims of intimate partner violence. In light of COVID-19, Kyle organized an online speech tournament that will donate all of the proceeds to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Kyle will attend the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas - Austin, where he will study journalism.

"This scholarship means absolutely everything to me," said Kyle. "I will use the funds learn the skills necessary to fulfill my dream of a career reporting on  LGBTQ+ issues.

Park Vista Community High School graduating senior Endora Guillaume is a passionate activist and outspoken woman of Haitian descent. A Lake Worth Beach resident, she is Bright Futures Academic Scholar as well as a Cambridge AICE Merit Diploma recipient. At school, Endora has been active in both the school's Gender-Sexuality Alliance and Black Student Union.

This Fall, Endora will attend her dream school - Howard University to study political science on the school's  pre-law track with the intent of becoming a human rights lawyer and activist. At Howard, Endora intends to become active with the ACLU, the LGBTQIA Committee, the Black Student Alliance, and other social justice organizations. In addition, she hopes to intern for a Member of Congress.

"I am eager to use my education to make a real difference in the world and to ensure equal rights and fair treatment of all people, regardless of sex, religion, race, gender, etc.," said Endora.  "This scholarship will make a tremendous difference in my education and will help me begin my life's calling"

Theo Shusterman of West Palm Beach serves as Co-Vice President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, where he organized the GSA Buddies Initiative and a community painting project. A gun-reform activist and Co-Director of March For Our Lives West Palm Beach, Theo will continue his social justice and advocacy efforts at Wesleyan University, where he plans to study political science and sociology.

"At Weslyan, I intend to study the relationship between LGBTQ+ people and other minority groups within the American political system," said Theo.

Since its inception in 2015, the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards have been administered by PBCHRC Board Member Carly Cass, who will be passing the torch to PBCHRC Board Member Jasmin K. Lewis, incoming Chair of the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation's scholarship program.  
"Kyle, Endora and Theo have been passionate advocates for the local LGBTQ community," said Lewis. "The Foundation is proud to recognize their work by presenting them with the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards."

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Westlake, Florida's fastest growing city, to become the Sunshine State's first municipality to enact LGBTQ protections at a virtual meeting




May 12, 2020

At last night's meeting, the Westlake City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance. When the law takes effect, discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, as well as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, familial status, pregnancy, marital status, or genetic information, will be prohibited in Westlake. 

Westlake, Palm Beach County's newest and smallest city, has 531 registered voters and approximately 400 homes. However,plans call for 4,500 homes, 2 million square feet of commercial space, a private sports academy and day school, a grocery store, and a hospital. According to U.S. Census figures, Westlake is now the fastest growing city in Florida.

While thirty municipalities in Florida already have LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws, Westlake will be the first municipality in Florida to protect LGBTQ people, women and minorities virtually, using Webex

The LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinance was proposed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) as part of the organization's "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign.

PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Over the years, PBCHRC has been responsible for the implementation of more than 140 laws and policies providing equal protections, rights and benefits for the LGBTQ community.

"The U.S. Congress and the Florida
Legislature have failed to enact any civil rights laws protecting gay, lesbian and gender nonconforming individuals," said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch. "Therefore, the responsibility to prohibit discrimination rests on the elected officials in Florida's counties and municipalities."

"PBCHRC's 'Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!' campaign encourages municipalities to enact LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws," PBCHRC Board Member Tamara Sager told City Council Members via Webex. "Your ordinance will educate Westgate residents and business owners of their civil rights and responsibilities."

"While our country is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Westlake City Council Members found no reason to delay moving forward with the civil rights ordiance," said Sager. "That shows true leadership."

"The enactment of the Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance will help attract more homeowners to our city," said Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson, who introduced the ordinance at tonight's meeting. "In addition, the ordinance will help bring jobs, revenue and resources to Westlake."

PBCHRC's campaign has encouaged public officials in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth Beach, Ocean Ridge, Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach and Wellington to enact local LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws   . 

Similar ordinances are under consideration by the Haverhill Town Council and the North Palm Beach Village Council. 
Although Florida has sixty-seven counties, only twelve - Alachua, Broward, Duval,  Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties - have LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances.

Westlake will join thirty other Florida municipalities - Atlantic Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Dunedin, Fernandina Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville,  Greenacres, Gulfport, Jacksonville, Key West, Lake Worth Beach, Leesburg, Mascotte, Miami, Miami Beach, Mount Dora, North Port, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pembroke Pines, St. Augustine Beach, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, Venice, Wellington, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors - that have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive municipal civil rights ordinances.

"Sadly, 55 counties and 381 municipalities in Florida have no laws protecting LGBTQ Floridians from discrimination," said Hoch. "A great deal of work on civil rights remains to be done in the Sunshine State."

The Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance is set to take effect on June 11, 2020, following final reading of the ordinance,

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Census 2020 You Count! We Count!



The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is working with the Palm Beach County Multicultural Committee and Complete Count Committee to encourage LGBTQ people to complete the 2020 Census
 
The Census is our once-in-a-decade opportunity for government, researchers, and advocates to gather national data on the U.S. population and allocate resources accordingly. The results determine the number of congressional seats assigned to each state and how billion of dollars in federal funds are alocated to state and local governments.

"Florida is the third largest state in the United States, and Palm Beach County is the third largest county in the State of Florida," said PBCHRC Board Member Tamara Sager, who is spearheading PBCHRC's efforts to ensure a complete count of the county's LGBTQ and allied residents. "It is imperative that we account for every person in every household within Palm Beach County."

To participate in 
the 2020 Census,
click here.

Currently, the population of Palm Beach County is approximately 1.5 million people. This equates to $2.4 billion a year or $24 billion over 10 years for education, health care, housing, transportation, infrastructure and other programs and services funded by the federal government. 

Counting LGBTQ People in the U.S.
 
Nationwide polling data over the years suggests that approximately 4 percent of people living in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ -- or approximately 10 million Americans. 

The U.S. Census has never included questions about sexual orientation or gender identity -- and despite our best efforts, the 2020 census is no different. Therefore, even after 2020 census reports are issued in the upcoming years, there will still be no accurate count of LGBTQ people residing in our country. However, when examining housholds, the 2020 Census allows lesbian and gay couples to self-identify. One (very) small step forward for our community.


While we still await questions about sexual orientation and gender identity to be added to the census, this is a crucial opportunity for LGBTQ households to be counted. That will bring us one step closer to understanding and identifying our community members in Palm Beach County, Florida, and throughout the United States.

Responding to the Census Remains Important.

Hopefully, by now you have participate in the Census.  However, if you did not, please now.

It only takes a few minutes to participate in the 2020 Census 
and 
PBCHRC encourages you to do so.
  
We all have plenty of free time thse days.

To participate in 
the 2020 Census,
click here.

Please share this information with your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. 

Boynton Beach To Designate Gender Neutral Municipal Restrooms Citywide


Meet Ray Caranci -- Florida's newest LGBTQ elected official

March 27, 2020

While the results in almost all Florida's March 17 municipal elections were determined within hours after the polls closed, it was very different in the race for Haverhill Town Council (Seat 2). 

When all the votes were counted, there were 153 votes for Ray Caranci, an openly-LGBTQ candidate endorsed by the 
(PBCHRCVA), and 152 votes for incumbent Daniel Sohn. 

Since the margin was less than one-percent of the total votes cast, a mandatory recount was conducted on March 20 -- and there was no change in the count. However, one overseas ballot had not yet been returned, and the race could not be called. 

In accordance with the Florida Election Code, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections was required to wait until office hours ended today -- ten days after Election Day -- for the ballot to be returned, properly postmarked, and executed. 

Had the ballot arrived timely and included a vote for the incumbent, the election would have resulted in a tie and a run-off election would be required to be held before the end of March. That would have been a logistical nightmare for the Supervisor of Elections, the Town of Haverhill, the two candidates, and the Town's voters. 

Haverhill Town Council Member-elect Ray Caranci
with Compass Executive Director and CEO Julie Seaver

Fortunately, when the Supervisor's office confirmed that all the mail had arrived today, the solitary overseas ballot had not been returned. This resulted in Ray Caranci being elected. 

When he is sworn in as a Haverhill Town Council Member, on April 9, Ray will become Palm Beach County's -- and Florida's -- newest openly-LGBTQ elected official.   

Congratulations Ray!

Certified as an arborist and landscape inspector, Ray has worked for the City of West Palm Beach's Development Services Department as a landscape planner for more than five years. His job is to ensure developers' projects are as green and sustainable as possible. Prior to accepting the position in West Palm Beach, Ray spent more than eight years working in city planning as a forestry and development compliance technician for the City of Palm Beach Gardens.

Ray and his husband Scott have lived in Haverhill for the past fifteen years and have been together since 1989. Not wanting to wait until marriage equality came to Florida, Ray and Scott were married in Ashville, North Carolina in 2014 after the federal court there recognized marriage equality as a fundamental right.  

Ray, third from the left, at the Palm Beach County Courthouse.

On June 26, 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, bringing marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples nationwide. Ray celebrated the decision at a rally at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, and landed on the front page of the South Florida Sun- Sentinel.

Over the years, LGBTQ people in Palm Beach County have been elected to office in Boynton Beach, Cloud Lake, Haverhill, Lake Park, Lake Worth Beach, Lantana, Manalapan, Pahokee, Palm Beach Shores, Riviera Beach, and West Palm Beach. 

"Palm Beach County is unique in Florida, as close to one-third of our municipalities have elected LGBTQ mayors, commissioners, and council members since PBCHRCVA first started endorsing candidates in 1988," said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC).

PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Meet Our New Board Member - Rhonda Williams

The Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is pleased to annouce the election of  Rhonda Williams to our board.

Rhonda Williams is a writer, blogger, engineer, entrepreneur, software developer, and life coach. Born and raised in a small town in southern Virginia, Ms. Williams went on to live in a bigger world as an information technology innovator and transgender activist. Rhonda attended Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in Engineering. In 1983 she founded a software company that brought to market the first PC-based personnel system and the first consumer tax preparation software package.Today she spends much of her time consulting with nonprofits and speaking on gender issues relating to transgender acceptance. Her blog, Rhonda's Escape, has nearly 3 million total views and offers daily posts that encourage others to escape whatever is keeping them from living a full life. 
"I had nothing to do with creating this gender incongruity and I accept the fact it is a permanent characteristic. My life is now 'out to the world' so I had no alternative but to own it. I have often said that being transgender is the most confused, conflicted, and distracting, yet amazing journey I could ever imagine. I have also learned much about myself along the way.  I began to realize that the joy of living is about escaping self-limits and being proud. I am unapologetic and cognizant that nothing up to this point precludes me from bringing vibrant, attractive and self-confident. It is all about accepting myself and daring to live and experience life to the full. It is about looking my best, being my best and going out and exuding the class and confidence that the world expects from any woman. "


Sunday, March 29, 2020

President's Message - April 2020

April 2020

Unlike LGBTQ Floridians living in more than 80% of our state's counties, Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents are protected from
discrimination in employment, housing and the full range of public accommodations. (While LGBTQ people living in and visiting the Towns of Juno Beach and Lake Park are no longer protected from discrimination in housing and places of public accommodations, PBCHRC is working on getting full civil rights restored in the two towns.)

Public school students throughout Palm Beach County are protected from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. There are serious consequences for teachers and other school district employees who let bullying and harassment go unreported. Lesbian and gay couples throughout Palm Beach County, regardless of whether they are married, and their children are entitled to many of the same benefits as other families. Moreover, unlike almost all of Florida, conversion therapy for minors is prohibited throughout Palm Beach County.

The U.S. Senate will not vote in 2020 on the Equality Act passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives. In Florida, the Competitive Workforce Act, which, if ever enacted, would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public accommodations was dead on arrival in the 2020 session of the Florida Legislature - making this the eleventh consecutive time the bill went nowhere. Therefore, LGBTQ Floridians can only rely on counties, school districts and municipalities to protect our rights.


2020 MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has interviewed close to 1,000 candidates for public office, made endorsements, and repeatedly publicized the endorsements as part of our Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) initiative.

Municipal elections throughout Palm Beach County were held on March 17. However, prior to the elections, two PBCHRCVA-endorsed candidates, Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor Rachelle Litt and Royal Palm Beach Village Councilwoman Selena Samois, were re-elected without opposition. Other PBCHRC supporters who were elected or re-elected without opposition include Greenacres City Councilwoman Paula Bousquet, Greenacres Mayor Joel Flores, Palm Beach Town Council Member Lew Crampton, Palm Beach Gardens City Councilmember Mark Marciano, Royal Palm Beach Village Mayor Fred Pinto, Wellington Village Council Member Michael Napoleone and West Palm Beach City Commissioner-Elect Christy Fox.  

Despite the concern with coronavirus, PBCHRC supporters and allies once again were a significant voting bloc -- thanks to our Vote-By-Nail and Early Voting campaigns.  Once again, close to thwo-thirs of our supporters cast their ballors prior to Election Day

Over the years, LGBTQ people have been elected to office in Boynton Beach, Cloud Lake, Haverhill, Lake Park, Lake Worth Beach, Lantana, Manalapan, Pahokee, Palm Beach Shores, Riviera Beach, and West Palm Beach. Palm Beach County is unique in Florida, as close to one-third of Palm Beach County's municipalities have elected LGBTQ mayors, commissioners and council members since PBCHRCVA first started endorsing candidates in 1988.  


On March 17, openly-LGBTQ Boynton Beach City Commissioner Ty Penserga was re-elected by a landslide.   

Congratulations Ty!

Things were more complicated in the race for Haverhill Town Council (Seat 2), where incumbent Daniel Sohn faced challenger Ray Caranci – both of whom ran as openly-LGBTQ candidates.   After PBCHRCVA conducted research on both candidates and held face-to-face interviews, challenger Rae Caranci was endorsed by PBCHRCVA.  In contrast two other LGBTQ political organizations -- Equality Florida Action PAC and the Rusty Gordon LGBTQ Democratic Caucus – rushed through their endorsements of Sohn without even giving Caranci the opportunity to participate in their endorsement process!

When all the votes were counted following the March 17 election, there were 153 votes for Caranci and 152 votes for Sohn. Since the margin was less than one-percent of the total votes cast, a mandatory recount was conducted on March 20 -- and there was no change in the count. However, one overseas ballot had not yet been returned. In accordance with the Florida Election Code, the race could not be called until March 27, to give the overseas ballot time to be returned. Since that ballot was not returned timely, on March 27, Ray Caranci was certified as the winner. When he is sworn in as a Haverhill Town Council Member, on April 9, Ray will become Palm Beach County's -- and Florida's -- newest openly-LGBTQ elected official.

Congratulations Ray!

PBCHRCVA is pleased that our efforts have paid off. In addition to Ty Penserga and Ray Caranci, the following candidates endorsed by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance were elected or re-elected on in the March municipal elections: 
  • Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer
  • Boynton Beach City Commissioner Woodrow Hay
  • Delray Beach City Commissioner Shirley Johnson
  • North Palm Beach Village Council Member Darryl Aubrey
  • Palm Beach Gardens City Council Member Chelsea Reed
  • West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf
  • West Palm Beach City Commissioner Christina Lambert
PBCHRC congratulates all!

 
CONVERSION THERAPY BAN COURT CHALLENGES

Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, filed suit in federal court on behalf of two therapists seeking to nullify the bans on conversion therapy for minors enacted by Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton. The lawsuit is virtually identical to one Liberty Counsel filed against the City of Tampa.

Last year, Judge Robin Rosenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied Liberty Counsel's motion for preliminary injunctions which sought to prevent the bans from remaining in effect pending trial. As a result, at least for the time being, young LGBTQ people in Palm Beach County will remain safe from the psychological abuse caused by conversion therapy. Having lost, Liberty Counsel has appealed the order to the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit.  

I attended oral argument in federal court in Miami on February 11, 2020.  The three judges who presided over the case include two new judges appointed by President Trump and one who was appointed by President Obama.  We await a ruling later this year.

In the Tampa case, things did no go well. Judge William Jung of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, who was appointed by President Trump, granted Liberty Counsel's clients motion for a preliminary injunction. Therefore, it remains legal for conversion therapy practitioners in Tampa to continue to "treat" children with "talk therapy" pending a trial. Having lost, the City of Tampa has appealed the order to the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit. While the City of Tampa and the Liberty Counsel have filed their briefs, no date has been set for oral argument. PBCHRC will keep you posted.


DANIEL S. HALL SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARDS
 
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) CONTINUES TO accept applications for the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards -- college scholarships available to graduating LGBTQ+ high school seniors from Palm Beach County. The awards are named after Dan Hall, who has served as PBCHRC's for the past 30 years. As a father of three, an activist, and a mentor of gay youth, Dan has always had a strong interest in education.

Applications are due no later than midnight April 10, 2020

To apply online, please use this link:

CONGRATULATIONS

Congratulations to Rhonda Williams and Janiece N. Davis, MPH on being elected to PBCHRC's Board of Directors.

CURRENT INITIATIVES
 
PBCHRC Board Member Rhonda Williams and Janiece Davis are spearheading our campaign to encourage the Health Care District of Palm Beach County to provide trans-specific healthcare services to indigent patients.

Boynton Beach City Commissioner Ty Penserga has begun working with his colleagues on the City Commission to have the city designate all single-use- restrooms on municipal property to be designated "All Gender".

Katrina Long- Robinson, Vice Mayor of the City of Westlake is working on encouraging her colleagues on the City Council to enact an LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinance

PBCHRC Board Members Jasmin Lewis and Tamara Singer are working with the Palm Beach County Multicultural Committee and Complete Count Committee to help ensure all LGBTQ+ residents of Palm Beach County are included in the census.

The Council's current projects include persuading: 
  • Palm Beach County, Boynton Beach, and West Palm Beach, to designate the single-stall restrooms in municipal buildings as "All-Gender", 
  • the City of West Palm Beach to install at least one LGBTQ Pride rainbow crosswalk,
  •  the City of Westlake, the Towns of North Palm Beach and Havehill, the Village of North Palm Beach , and all other municipalities in Palm Beach County to enact civil rights ordinances which include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression.
  • the School District of Palm Beach County to cease doing business with Chick-fil-A and other companies that discriminate against LGBTQ people and other minorities,
  • the Health Care District of Palm Beach County to provide trans-specific healthcare services to indigent patients,
  •  the State of Florida to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression", and
  •  the State of Florida to prohibit conversion therapy.
For more than three decades, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBTQ community. With your support, we will continue to do so in the years to come. As always, we will keep you posted on our progress.

Stay safe!

Judge Rand Hoch (retired),

President and Founder