Friday, March 14, 2014

PBCHRC Post Election Update - March 2014


Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council's 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.

Rand Photo 2013 Thanks to the voter identification, early voting, absentee ballot and get out the vote campaigns conducted this winter by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance, members of Palm Beach County's LGBT community, and our allies turned out in record numbers for the 2014 municipal elections in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens.

Our efforts were instrumental in the re-election of Palm Beach Gardens City Council Members Eric Jablin and Marcie Tinsley, both longtime supporters of LGBT rights. The two incumbents have 100% voting records on LGBT issues, and, in 2013, both voted to offer domestic partner health insurance benefits to city employees. Both Jablin and Tinsley were challenged by well funded opponents and turnout in the March election was unusually strong. (While only 11% of Palm Beach Gardens voters turned out in the 2013 municipal elections, this year turnout reached close to 19%.) Thanks to your efforts, the two candidates who were endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance were re-elected.

In the Boca Raton municipal election, Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie, who voted in favor of offering domestic partnership benefits to city employees in 2013, defeated City Council Member Anthony Majhes, the sole vote against domestic partnership benefits.  City Council Member Michael Mullaugh, who also supported PBCHRC's initiatives in 2013, was also re-elected. Additionally, longtime PBCHRC supporter Robert Weinroth was elected to serve on the Boca Raton City Council.

Working to elect LGBT supportive public officials has resulted in the enactment of more than 65local laws and policies which now provide Palm Beach County's LGBT residents and visitors with equal protection and equal family benefits.

Earlier this year, Clerk and Comptroller for Palm Beach County Sharon Bock implemented a tax equity reimbursement policy to reimburse 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. Currently, the clerk, along with the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser, the Constitutional Tax Collector for Palm Beach County, the City of West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County all provide tax equity for their employees with domestic partners. As a result of PBCHRC's efforts, more public employers provide tax equity in our county than in any other state in our nation.

Until all federal and state civil rights laws become LGBT inclusive - and until marriage equality reaches Florida - PBCHRC will remain vigilant in our efforts to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The Council's current projects include persuading:

●     The City of Boca Raton to rescind Ordinance No. 5161; 
●     The Chief Judge of Florida's 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in mandatory diversity training for judges and court personnel; 
●     All public employers within Palm Beach County to: (a) adopt policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression" and (b) provide the same employment benefits to families based on domestic partnerships as are provided to families based on legally recognized marriages; and 
●  All public employers within Palm Beach County providing domestic partners health insurance to provide annual payments to offset (or fully reimburse) the additional federal taxes assessed on the value of those payments.

In keeping with PBCHRC's commitment to promoting equality through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation, and community outreach, PBCHRC will be cosponsoring the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Network annual event in Fort Lauderdale. In addition, this December, three PBCHRC Board Members,  Vice Chair Jess Blackman, Secretary Rae Franks, and Litigation Chair Trent Steele, will be participating in Lavender Law, the National LGBT Bar Association Conference in New York. This conference brings together the best and brightest legals minds in the country and PBCHRC is proud to continue its relationship these incredible legal organizations.

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 in 2014 - and beyond.

Judge Rand Hoch (retired)
President and Founder 

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