Friday, January 27, 2012

Palm Beach County broadens commercial non-discrimination policy to include "gender identity or expression"

January 25, 2011

(West Palm Beach Beach) By a 6-1 vote, the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners amended its Nondiscrimination in Contracting Policy on Tuesday, prohibiting the County from doing business with, or appropriating funds to, public and private organizations which practice discrimination based on "gender identity or expression."

The policy now covers race, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, sex, age, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or disability.

Commissioner Steven Abrams of Boca Raton cast the only "no" vote, stating that the new standards could have a negative impact on the number of businesses bidding on county projects.

Abrams, a Republican, expressed concern that the new policy could lead to less competition and higher prices for taxpayers.

"Commissioner Abrams' concern is unfounded," said Rand Hoch, a retired judge who serves as President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. The Council is a local nonprofit organization is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"The Palm Beach County School District's Commercial Non-Discrimination Policy includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression," said Hoch. "Commissioner Abrams cannot point to one company that has stopped bidding for work on our schools because of that policy."

In response to Abrams' concern that the policy could lead to additional litigation, Hoch replied, "Palm Beach County law already prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The new policy will not give rise to any new cause of action."

The Council commended the County Commissioners for taking a proactive stand against discrimination.

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