Across the county and around the globe, LGBT Pride is being celebrated this month.
Here in Palm Beach County we have many reasons to
take pride in our LGBT community.
The Palm Beach County Human
Rights Council marks its 25th anniversary in 2013. Since 1988, local
activists – all volunteers -- have been interviewing candidates for
public office, making endorsements, educating public officials and
taking action with the sole purpose of changing laws and policies to
provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the local LGBT community.
To see our remarkable successes, check out the "Palm Beach County (Florida) LGBT History Timeline (Updated 6/10/13)"on the blog.
PBCHRC’s 25th Anniversary Celebration began on May 1 with a fabulous
event sponsored by the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, featuring openly gay
poet Richard Blanco. Kudos go out to Victor Figueredo and everyone at
the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach, who organized this evening.
The 25th Anniversary celebrations continue on Friday evening, August 2, with a special performance of William
Randall Beard’s musical Beyond the Rainbow, sponsored by The Arts
Garage in Delray Beach. The show about Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall
features two dozen of Garland’s greatest hits, including “Get Happy,”
“That’s Entertainment,” “The Trolley Song” and of course, “Over the
Rainbow.” Ticket information will be sent out shortly, but in the
interim, please save the date for an incredible evening of fun and
Something very special is being planned for
our main 25th Anniversary event later this Fall. Co-Chairs Victor
Figueredo and Ross W. W. Meltzer – and an amazing committee of
volunteers – will fill us in on the details very shortly. Truly, it will
be a night to remember.
Within days, the U.S. Supreme Court will
be issuing two rulings on cases involving recognition of lesbian and
gay relationships. As a retired judge, I can assure you that it is
always a mistake to predict how a court will rule. That being said, I am
optimistic the rulings will help at least some laws across the country
catch up with public opinion which increasingly supports legal
recognition of our relationships.
Since the Palm Beach County
Human Rights Council does not take a “wait and see” position when it
comes to moving forward in securing equal rights and benefits for our
community, we have been extremely busy this year, working on
non-discrimination policies and domestic partnership benefits at the
local level, especially in the cities of West Palm Beach, Delray Beach,
Boca Raton, Boynton Beach and Palm Beach Gardens, as well in the town of
Palm Beach. Last December, PBCHRC renewed its efforts in the town of
Palm Beach concerning the full range of domestic partnership benefits
for town employees. In March, the town manager informed PBCHRC that an
insurance consultant had been hired to assist the town on insurance
matters, including offering health insurance to the domestic
partners of town employees. PBCHRC is very optimistic that by year’s end
the town of Palm Beach will join the ever-growing list of local
public employers offering equal benefits to their LGBT employees.
late April, West Palm Beach became the first city in Florida - and
only the second city in the nation – to implement a tax equity policy to
reimburse municipal employees insuring their domestic partners for the
full amount of the additional federal income taxes which are assessed on
employees whose domestic partners receive health insurance through
their employers. As a result, the city of West Palm Beach leads the
nation on domestic partnership benefits.
County Commissioner Mary
Lou Berger, school board member Karen Brill and Port of Palm Beach
Commissioner Wayne Richards have all been working on urging their
colleagues to implement a tax equity policies at their workplaces as
In Delray Beach, the new mayor, Cary
Glickstein, and new City Manager Louie Chapman Jr. acted promptly on
PBCHRC’s request to update the city’s administrative policy against
discrimination, harassment and bullying to include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”
sharp contrast, the city managers in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens
continue to resist efforts to provide equal rights and benefits
for their LGBT employees. While PBCHRC has been aggressively working in
Boca Raton since last September, its work in Palm Beach Gardens is just gearing up.
February, the Boca Raton Community Relations Board unanimously adopted a
resolution recommending that the city council add “sexual
orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to its jurisdiction.
City Manager Leif Ahnell refused to ask the city council to vote on the CRB’s recommendation.
last September, City Manager Ahnell and City Attorney Diana Grub
Frieser have managed to stymie all efforts to bring Boca Raton into the
21st century regarding the treatment of its LGBT employees, despite the
clear message sent by four of the five city council members at a public
hearing held last November to promptly take action.
Hopefully, some prodding from PBCHRC, including our “Boca Bigots Run City Hall” campaign will help turn the tide.
Our goals are to have the City of Boca Raton:
expand the jurisdiction of the Boca Raton Community Relations Board to
include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression”;
● revise all city nondiscrimination policies to prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression”;
● provide the full range of domestic partnership benefits to Boca Raton municipal employees;
and rescind Boca Raton City Ordinance No 5161, which allowed the city
of Boca Raton to strip its municipal employees of all avenues of legal
recourse in cases of employment discrimination based on “sexual
orientation” and “gender identity or expression."
Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie and city council member Constance
Scott appear to be sympathetic to PBCHRC’s goals for equal treatment and
benefits for the city’s employees, neither has taken the action
necessary to further our goals (i.e., formally asking the city council
to direct city staff to take action). PBCHRC continues to be vigilant on
its efforts on behalf of Boca Raton’s LGBT employees.
In other matters:
Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio appoints Robert Telford, a
broadcast coordinator for the City's television station, as the Mayor's
Liaison to the City's LGBT community.
● PBCHRC Vice President Jess Blackman is working with the Florida Bar on an continuing legal education seminar on marriage equality to be held on June 28 in (of all places) Boca Raton!
PBCHRC assisted Scouts for Equality with their successful petition
drive to help convince the Boy Scouts of America to drop the ban on gay
● Boynton Beach Community Relations Board Member Ben Lowe has asked PBCHRC to draft the Boynton Beach Civil Rights Act to be considered by the city’s CRB.
Atlantic University and the United Faculty of Florida have reached
a tentative agreement concerning limited domestic partnership benefits
for university employees; however, the agreement is subject to
ratification of the entire collective bargaining agreement.
Additionally, the university is considering the addition of "gender
identity and expression" to its nondiscrimination regulations.
Jess Blackman and PBCHRC Vice President Secretary Rae Franks are
working with Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock to urge the county
commissioners to eliminate the existing inequities in the county’s
domestic partnership ordinance.
● PBCHRC board members Hutch
Floyd and Matthew McWatters are in the in the early stages of work on
LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies and domestic partnership
benefits in Greenacres City.
● Board Member J.P. Sasser is
working as our liaison to the Area Agency on Aging’s LGBT Task Force to
improve the lives of Palm Beach County’s LGBT seniors.
PBCHRC board members (and former PBCHRC President) Jamie Foreman is
working to develop a training program for the judges serving in Palm
Beach County to assist them in dealing more effectively with members of
the LGBT community.
The Council’s updated website (pbchrc.org)
has proven to be very popular. It is fully accessible on Apple mobile
devices and has many new features, including links to our Facebook page
(PBCHRC) and our Twitter account (PBCHRC). Please use the links to
follow us on both Facebook and Twitter.
As you can see, much work remains to be done and we greatly appreciate your support in our endeavors.
Rest assured, we will continue to keep you posted.
President and Founder