Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palm Beach County School District to Prohibit Anti-Gay Discrimination

Out In West Palm Beach
April 28, 2009

(West Palm Beach, Florida) More than 19 years after first being asked to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, members of Palm Beach County's school board unanimously voted this evening to amend the school district's Equal Opportunity Policy and its Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression." The two policies are expected to be formally adopted at a public hearing within the next few weeks.

"Good things come to those who wait, and we have waited a long, long time," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council is a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

In 1991, the Council first asked the School Board of Palm Beach County to prohibit discrimination against the school district's gay and lesbian employees.

"Back then, a few members of the school board actually wanted to reserve the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian teachers," said Hoch. "They did not want to have the words 'sexual orientation' in any school district policy."

After months of discussion, in an attempt to compromise, the school board revised the school district's nondiscrimination policies by eliminating the references to all protected classes.

"It was an absurd compromise," said Hoch. "Race, religion, national origin, color, sex, age, marital status and handicap were all removed from the school district's nondiscrimination policy."

"The purpose of anti-discrimination policies is to inform employers and employees what is prohibited," Hoch told The Palm Beach Post at the time. "Unless you are a civil rights lawyer, this policy will not let you know what is prohibited."

The school district's compromise policy was short lived.

In 1996, the US Supreme Court addressed the issue in the landmark gay rights case Romer v. Evans.

Writing for the majority Justice Anthony Kennedy noted, "Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply."

As a result, the school board restored the listing of protected classes in the district's anti-bias policies - but still refused to add sexual orientation.

In 2002, the Council renewed its efforts to have the school board take steps to protect gay and lesbian students and employees from discrimination and harassment. Over the years that followed, the school board made painfully incremental progress.

The Council's first priority was to protect public schools students who were being subjected to harassment at school.

After extensive lobbying by the Council, in 2003 the school board adopted a policy protecting students against harassment based on sexual orientation. Following additional lobbying by the Council, in 2008, the school board agreed to include gender identity or expression.

In 2006, the school district adopted a commercial nondiscrimination policy that prohibited the school board from contracting with any business that discriminated on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability. The policy was amended in 2009 to include gender identity or expression.

"The school district's policy required contractors to affirm that they would not discriminate against gay men and lesbians," said Hoch. "But until now, the school board showed little interest in a policy that would impose the identical requirements on the School District of Palm Beach County."

Noting the inconsistencies among the school districts various nondiscrimination policies, the Council repeatedly asked the school board to conform all of the nondiscrimination policies to each other and to the applicable anti-discrimination laws.

"It should not have taken so many years to persuade the school board to protect gay and lesbian employees from discrimination," said Hoch.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Act Now LGBT and Allied Groups Call on Congress to Pass ENDA Now

More than 200 Organizations Demand Immediate Action

(Washington, DC, April 21) — Today, the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, along with allies in the faith, labor and civil rights communities, issued the following statement to members of the United States Congress:

“Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act NOW.”

Equality Federation, Toni Broaddus, Executive Director
Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Lee Swislow, Executive Director
Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, President
National Black Justice Coalition, Sharon J. Lettman, Executive Director/CEO
National Center for Lesbian Rights, Kate Kendell, Esq., Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Stonewall Democrats, Michael Mitchell, Executive Director
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays National, Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO, Peggy Shorey, Executive Director
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Selisse Berry, Founding Executive Director
Transgender Law Center, Masen Davis, Executive Director
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Terry Stone, Executive Director
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Shawn Gaylord, Director of Public Policy
A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Clayola Brown, President
Advocates for Youth, James Wagoner, President
African American Ministers in Action, Rev. Timothy McDonald, Chairman
AID Gwinnett, Larry M. Lehman, Executive Director
AIDS Action Council, William D. McColl, Political Director
Alabama Gender Alliance, J. D. Freeman, President
Alaska Together for Equality, Inc., Elias Rojas, Board President
Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Debra Kolodny, Executive Director
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Gerald W. McEntee, President
American Federation Of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, President
American Humanist Association, Karen Frantz, Communication and Policy Director
Arizona Stonewall Democrats, Erica Keppler, Chair
Arizona Trans Alliance, Erica Keppler, Co-Chair
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Amado Uno, Executive Director
Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, Patricia Friend, President
Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, Tim Cairl, President
Basic Rights Oregon, Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director
Baystate Stonewall Democrats, Claire Naughton, President
Bi Writers Association, Sheela Lambert, Founder
Bisexual Resource Center, Ellyn Ruthstrom, President
Black Pride Los Angeles, Milton Smith, Board President
California Council Of Churches/IMPACT, The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director
California Faith for Equality, Kerry Chaplin, Interfaith Organizing Director
Celtic Circle Church of US and Scotland, Rev. Lord Arteo MacAiken Sneath, Founding Elder Clergy/CEO
Central City AIDS Network, Inc, The Rainbow Center, Johnny Fambo, Executive Director
Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Robert F. Rivera, President
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Karen J. See, President
COLAGE, Beth Teper, Executive Director
Colorado Stonewall Democrats, Karen Bachman, Vice-Chair
Communications Workers of America, Annie Hill, Executive Vice President
Community Alliance and Action Network, Tim Pierce, President
Community Health Awareness Council, Monique Kane, Executive Director
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Rabbi
Consortium for Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Debbie Bazarsky, Co-Chair
Coqsure, Cris Land, Founder and Administrator
DC Trans Coalition, Sadie-Ryanne Baker, Leadership Committee Co-Chair
Democratic Party of Oregon, Meredith Wood-Smith, Chair
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE), Paul Almeida, President
DignityUSA, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda, Joe Tarver, Interim Executive Director
Equal Rights Washington, Joshua Friedes, Executive Director
Equality Alabama, Lori Stabler, Board Co-Chair
Equality Arizona, Mike Remedi, Co-Chair Board of Directors
Equality California, Geoff Kors, Executive Director
Equality Florida, Nadine Smith, Executive Director
Equality Hawaii, Paul Gracie, Co-Chair
Equality Illinois, Bernard Cherkasov, Esq., CEO
Equality Iowa, Sandy Vopalka, Founder
Equality Maine, Betsy Smith, Executive Director
Equality Maryland, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director
Equality North Carolina, Ian Palmquist, Executive Director
Equality Ohio, Sue Doerfer, Executive Director
Equality South Dakota, Robert Doody, Chair
Equality Texas, Chuck Smith, Interim Executive Director
Equality Toledo Community Action, David Mann, President
Fair Housing of Marin, Nancy Kenyon, Executive Director
Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, Peter Harvey, Executive Director
Fair Wisconsin, Katie Belanger, Executive Director
Fairness West Virginia, Stephen Skinner, President
Families United Against Hate (FUAH), Gabi Clayton, Board President
Female-To-Male International, Rabbi Levi Alter, President
Fight OUT Loud, Waymon Hudson, President
Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, Michael Albetta, Caucus President
Florida Together, Ted Howard, Executive Director
FORGE, Michael Munson, Executive Director
Forum For Equality, SarahJane Brady, Managing Director
Forward Montana, Matt Singer, CEO
Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, Executive Director
FTM International Albuquerque, NM Chapter, Adrien Lawyer, Leader
FTM International Atlanta, GA Chapter, BT, Leader
FTM International Bay Area, CA AFLOAT-SOFFA Chapter, Genie Moore, Leader
FTM International North Texas Chapter, Clay Rieber, Leader
FTM International Ohio Chapter, Jake Nash, Leader
FTM International Sacramento, CA Chapter, Marty Diaz, Leader
FTM International San Buenaventura, CA Chapter, Seth Mwansa, Leader
FTMI International San Diego, CA Chapter, Connor Maddocks, Leader
Garden State Equality, Steven Goldstein, Chair and CEO
Gay And Lesbian Labor Activist Network
Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, Rebecca Allison, MD, President
Gay City Health Project, Fred Swanson, Executive Director
Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, Doug Landreth, Founder
Gay Liberation Network, Andy Thayer, Co-Founder
Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, Cindy Crane, Executive Director
Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination, Caleb Laieski, Executive Director
Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Carolyn Laub, Executive Director
Greater Seattle Business Association GSBA, Louise Chernin, Executive Director
Gender Justice LA, Latrice Johnson, Executive Director
Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ, Barbra Casbar Siperstein, Director
Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner, Senior Pastor
Georgia Equality, Jeff Graham, Executive Director
Georgia Rural Urban Summit, Larry Pellegrini, Executive Director
Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Jeffrey D. Richardson, President
GetEQUAL, Kip Williams, Co-Founder
GLBT Bar Association of Washington, Cynthia Buhr, President
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco, David Waggoner, Co-President
H.E.R.O., Meg Sneed, Co-founder
Holy Sprit Ecumenical Church – Largo, FL, Rev Steven M. Rosczewski, Pastor
Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc, Scott W. Gehl, Executive Director
Human Rights Campaign of Vanderbilt University, Luis Munoz, President
Immigration Equality, Julie Kruse, Policy Director
Ingersoll Gender Center, Marsha Botzer, Co-President
Integrity USA, John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, Co-Chair
International Court Council, Coco LaChine, President
International Federation of Black Prides, Inc, Earl Fowlkes, President/CEO
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO, James A. Williams, General President
Jacksonville Now, Jeremy Gould, CEO
Jefferson County, Colorado, Democratic Party, GLBT Caucus, David Reaser, Chair
Jewish Family & Career Services – The Rainbow Center in Atlanta, Gary Miller, CEO
Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc, Tracee McDaniel, Executive Director
Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, Antonio David Garcia, Executive Director
Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Travis Myles, Chairperson
Keshet, Idit Klein, Executive Director
KnoxBoyz of East Tennessee, BEAR A-M Rodgers, Founding Executive Director
KnoxGirlz of East Tennessee, Deirdre Radcliffe, Executive Director
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Hector E. Sanchez, Executive Director
LaGender Inc, Dee Dee Chamblee, Executive Director
Lambda Legal, Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director
Lavender Caucus SEIU, Eastern Region, Tony Fernandes, President
Legal Aid Services of Broward County, Anthony J. Karrat, Esq., Executive Director
Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, Joan M. Graff, President
Legal Voice, Lisa Stone, Executive Director
Lepoco Peace Center, Nancy Tate, Executive Director
Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens (LGBDQ), Bruce Friedman, President
Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project, Claudia E. Stallman, Project Director
LGBT Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Roland Winston, Chairman
Log Cabin Republicans, Terry Hamilton, National Chairman
Long Island Housing Services, Michelle Santantonio, Executive Director
Love Makes a Family PAC, Martin L. Heft, Chairman
Lutherans Concerned/North America, Ross Murray, Interim Executive Director
Maine Transgender Network, Inc, Alex Roan, Executive Director
Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association, David Eppley, Co-Chair
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Gunner Scott, Executive Director
Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization, Leslie J. Calman, Ph.D., Executive Director
MEGA Family Project, Kathy Kelly, Executive Director
Metropolitan Community Churches, The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc., Jim McCarthy, President/CEO
Michigan AIDS Coalition, Detroit, Michigan, Craig Covey, Operating Officer
More Light Presbyterians, Michael J. Adee, Executive Director
NAACP, Hilary O. Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior VP for Advocacy and Policy
National Caucus SEIU, Tom Barbera, President
National Coalition for LGBT Health, Rebecca Fox, Executive Director
National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Ratzan, President
National Fair Housing Alliance, Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO
National Marriage Boycott, Laura Wadden, Executive Director
National Organization for Women – Alabama, Shirley Ann Rawls, President
National Student Genderblind Campaign, David Norton, Executive Director
National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), Gregory Varnum, Executive Director New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, Mo Baxley, Executive Director
New Mexico GLBTQ Centers, David Stocum, Executive Director
New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), Pauline Park, Chair
New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO), Joann Prinzivalli, Executive Director
Northwest PA Trans Group, Joanne Lynn Benjamin, Founder
Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary-Treasurer Emerita
One Colorado, Lea Ann Purvis, Interim Executive Director
Our Family Coalition, Judy Appel, Executive Director
Out4Immigration, Amos Lim, Founding Board Member
OutFront Minnesota, Amy Johnson, Executive Director
Outlet Program, Eileen Ross, Director
Outright Vermont, Melissa Murray, Executive Director
PA Diversity Network, Liz Bradbury, Executive Director
Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Rand Hoch, President and Founder
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals of Jacksonville, FL, Frieda Saraga, President
People For the American Way, Michael B. Keegan, President
Perpetual Transition, Casey Lanham, Co-Founder
PFLAG-Vero Beach, Carl Burns, Treasurer
Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center, Ryan Acker, Executive Director
Pride At Work, Martin Luther King County WA Chapter, Mike Andrews, Secretary-Treasurer, Chapter Lead
Pride Tampa Bay, R. Zeke Fread, Executive Director
PROMO (Missouri), A. J. Bockelman, Executive Director
Religious Institute, The Reverend Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director
Respect Resource Group, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Randy Kammer, Executive Sponsor
Rockway Institute, a unit of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, San Francisco campus, Robert-Jay Green, Executive Director
Room for All (Reformed Church in America), Rev. Robert D. Williams, Founding Co-President
RU12? Community Center and Vermont TransAction, Kara DeLeonardis, MSW, LICSW, Executive Director
S. U. R. E. Foundation, Dr. Mekah Gordon Ph.D., Founder/CEO
Safe Schools Coalition, Kyle Rapinan, Co-chair
San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director
Santa Cruz County Task Force for LGBTIQ Youth, Stuart Rosenstein, Chair
SEIU 509 Lavender Caucus, Tom Barbera, President
Service Employees International Union, Anna Burger, International Secretary Treasurer
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), Joseph DiNorcia Jr., President and CEO
SOFFAs of East Tennessee Transgenders, Valerie Knight, Executive Director
South Bay Transmen, Lance Moore, Organizer
South Carolina Equality, B. Dean Pierce, Chair, Board of Directors
Stonewall Democratic Club of New York, Joseph G. Hagelmann, III, President
Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada, Derek Washington, Chair
Stonewall Democrats of Volusia & Flagler, Larry Glinzman, President
Stonewall Democrats of Pasco County, Jocelyn A. Dickman, President
Sunshine Social Services, Inc/SunServe, Mark Adler, MPH, Executive Director
Tennessee Equality Project, H.G. Stovall, Board President
Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, Randy Cox, President/Chair
Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Marisa Richmond, Ph.D., President
Tennessee Vals, Vickie Davis, Chair Woman
The American Institute of Bisexuality, Denise Penn MSW, Director
The Center (Des Moines, Iowa), Sandy Vopalka, Administrator
The Center For Artistic Revolution, Randi M. Romo, Executive Director
The Center for HIV Law and Policy, Catherine Hanssens, Executive Director
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS), Bernard Schlager, Ph.D., Executive Director
The Crystal Club, Barbie Rogers, President
The Family Tree LGBT Community Center, Jim Van Riper, Co-Chair
The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, Hebrew Union Collage-Jewish Institute of Religion, Dr. Joel Kushner, Director
The Pride Center at Equality Park, Paul Hyman, Executive Director
Trans/Giving Arts Showcase, Kalil Cohen, Lead Organizer
Trans-Action Initiative of Bard College, Kira Gilman, Club Head
TransActive Education & Advocacy, Jenn Burleton, Executive Director
Transgender at Work, Mary Ann Horton, Chair
Transgender Education Network of Texas, Lisa Scheps, Executive Director
Transgender Equality Rights Initiative (TERI), Jacqui Charvet, Co-Administrator
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Michael Silverman, Executive Director
TransOhio, Shane Morgan, Founder & Chair
Triangle Community Center, Norwalk, CT, Christopher J. Spiegelman, Board President
Triangle Foundation/Michigan Equality, Alicia Skillman, Executive Director
Tucson GLBT Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Fishman, President
UNITE HERE International Union, John Wilhelm, President
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, CA, Rev. Lindi Ramsden, Executive Director
Vermont Freedom to Marry Action Committee, Beth Robinson, Chair
Washington Gender Alliance, Rory Gould, President
Western Mass Pride at Work, David James, President
WKJCE TLGB Radio, Alanna Maneer, Co Founder
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), Mary E. Hunt, Executive Director
YouthPride, Inc, Terence McPhaul, Executive Director

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gay, lesbian hospital rules change celebrated by local activists

By Lona O'Connor
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, April 16, 2010

Activists in Palm Beach County were delighted Friday by President Obama's move to issue new rules covering hospital visitation by gay and lesbian partners, even though a county ordinance provides similar protections.

"This is monumental for people in the gay and lesbian community," said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. "No matter where you live in America, you will be treated in the same way."

In Palm Beach County, an ordinance on the books since 2006 allows gay, lesbian and straight domestic partners to register. Once registered, the domestic partner has the ability to make health-care decisions for his or her partner.

A highly publicized 2007 Miami case showed what can go wrong when hospital employees deny a domestic partner access to his or her loved one.

Janice Langbehn was separated for eight hours from Mary Pond, her partner of 18 years, because Langbehn was not carrying documents proving that she was Pond's domestic partner. As Langbehn struggled to get the documents, Pond slipped into a coma and died alone.

On Monday, Jackson Memorial Hospital, where the incident occurred, announced new rules to protect domestic partners from a recurrence of the Langbehn case.

Obama called Langbehn from Air Force One on Thursday to let her know that he ordered all hospitals accepting federal Medicare and Medicaid money to allow visitation by domestic partners.

As usual, the devil could be in the details.

Though Palm Beach County offers protection to same-sex couples, the state does not. If a same-sex partner is unable to document his or her relationship to the sick or injured person, Florida hospitals are legally required to revert to a "next of kin" rule, calling parents, siblings and other relatives before they can recognize the domestic partner, said James Beaudreau, education and policy director of the San Francisco-based advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

Hoch and others urge people to carry laminated wallet-sized copies of their domestic-partner registrations that they can show to hospital personnel.

The presidential memo sends a strong signal to hospitals to make sure their policies do not discriminate.

"This is just a memorandum," said Beaudreau. "But it demonstrates that there is recognition (of gay couples) at the highest level."

Obama gave federal agencies 180 days to work out the details.

The next step, said Beaudreau, is to make sure hospital personnel are trained not to discriminate.

Hoch said that since the 2006 county ordinance protecting gay and lesbian domestic partners, he has not heard of any case such as the Langbehn incident.

And he does not anticipate any in the near future.

"Let me put it this way," Hoch said. "I would not want to be the person in the hospital who denies a legitimate domestic partner the right to help."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Incoming Florida Atlantic University President Saunders Called On To Address Gay Issues

(Boca Raton, Florida) In the "Price of Silence" lecture at Florida Atlantic University this evening, gay activist Rand Hoch, called on incoming FAU president Mary Jane Saunders to address gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues when she assumes her responsibilities at the state university this summer.

Hoch, who served as Florida's first openly gay judge, is president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. Since 1988, the Council has persuaded public employers in Florida to enact more than sixty laws and policies benefiting Florida's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

The Council began working on gay issues with Florida Atlantic University in 2005. Individual faculty members and the FAU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida have been working on these issues behind the scenes for well over a decade.

Addressing FAU faculty and students in Barry Kaye Hall, Hoch called for an end to the "culture of silence" regarding gay issues at the university.

"For years, those on the FAU faculty and staff who have raised gay issues have felt marginalized or ignored. Some have even been subjected to ridicule for publicly addressing gay concerns," said Hoch. "After a while some of these gay and gay-supportive individuals became silent. Some have told me it wasn't just the marginalization they feared, they feared reprisal."

"Eight of the eleven state universities have clearly written policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Hoch. "But not FAU."

The University of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, the University of West Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University and New College of Florida all have nondiscrimination policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"With Dr. Saunders's leadership, progress could be made," said Hoch. "Send an e-mail to President Sauders welcoming her to Florida Atlantic University. Ask her to set up a task force to specifically address the concerns of your university's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

"During his tenure as FAU President, Frank Brogan steadfastly refused to include the words 'sexual orientation' in the nondiscrimination policies and he ignored all requests regarding domestic partner benefits," said Hoch.

Brogan stepped down as the university's president last year to become chancellor for the State University System of Florida.

In 2003, after the FAU Faculty Senate overwhelmingly passed a motion supporting domestic partner benefits, then-Provost Ken Jessell put together a committee to study domestic partner benefits. In its report, the committee strongly recommended that FAU offer domestic partner benefits.

"That was six and one-half years ago,"said Hoch. "FAU still does not offer domestic partner benefits."

More than a dozen of Florida's public universities and colleges now offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The schools include the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida International University as well as at Brevard Community College, Broward College, Central Florida Community College, Florida Keys Community College, Hillsborough Community College, Lake-Sumter Community College, Manatee Community College, Miami-Dade College, Okaloosa-Walton College, Palm Beach State College, Pasco-Hernando Community College, Santa Fe Community College and Seminole Community College.

"Based on what other state institutions of higher learning are paying to implement domestic partner benefits in their workplaces, the cost of offering domestic partner benefits at FAU would probably be around $35,000 - basically the cost that any two of FAU's 22,000 students pay to attend the school for one year," Hoch predicted.

Cleveland State University, where Dr. Saunders served as provost, maintains a Safe Space Program whose goal is to create visible peer support and awareness of, for, and among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

"The CSU Safe Space Program recognizes that while other minority students can easily identify role models and mentors, the invisibility of sexual orientation makes it very difficult for gay students to ascertain where they can safely turn for support and information," said Hoch "The Safe Space program provides these students with access to and recognition of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities who are available to aid LGBT students in making connections with the resources available to them."

Hoch asked the assembled faculty and students to call on President Saunders to establish a Safe Space Program at FAU.



(Wellington, Florida) On April 3, the Village of Wellington played host to the world's first international gay polo tournament. Two days later, Village Attorney Jeffrey Kurtz rejected a local gay rights group's request to revise the Village's employment policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The people who bring their horses -- and their dollars -- to Wellington are extremely gay friendly," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council .

The Council is a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"Gay men and lesbians have long been a very visible part of Wellington's equestrian community," said Jamie Todd Foreman, an openly gay attorney who lives in nearby Lake Worth.

Early this year, after the Gay Polo League announced it would hold its first national polo tournament in Wellington, the Council sent a letter to Village Manager Paul Schofield requesting him to update Village policies to prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Village employees.

Wellington previously denied similar requests made in 2006 and 2008, according to Hoch.

"Since Wellington was now welcoming gay polo, the Council expected a positive response this year," said Hoch."We really were taken aback by the Village's denial of our request."

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has been successful in persuading local municipalities adopt gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

"More than sixty percent of Palm Beach County's cities, towns and villages now have gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies," said Hoch. "Wellington's continued refusal to adopt gay inclusive policies is the exception, not the rule.

Two openly gay men and one lesbian currently serve as mayors of Palm Beach County municipalities, and the city manager of another city is transsexual, according to the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

"In Florida, you can't get more gay welcoming than Palm Beach County," said Foreman.

The gay polo tournament.was a tremendous success. Nearly 1,500 people, including hundreds of openly gay men and lesbians, mingled in the Florida sunshine, tailgating and watching four teams compete at the Grand Champion Polo Club's fields.

"It is such a pleasure and an honor to have this event in Wellington," said Wellington resident Robert Dover, a six-time U.S. Olympic dressage rider

"Everyone had a great afternoon," said Hoch. "Even Nacho was there, having fun with brought his kids".

Nacho Figueras, who is considered one of the world's best polo players, is also a top model for Ralph Lauren fragrances.

Gay Polo League president Chip McKenney is considering having the league return to Wellington in 2011 for another tournament with more players and spectators.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council expects Wellington to revise the policies before next year's tournament.

"Our next step is to appeal directly to the Mayor and Village Council," said Hoch. Hopefully they will understand that Wellington's public image is now under scrutiny." [4/13/10]