Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PBCHRC Update - July 2014


Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council’s activists – all volunteers – have been screening 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.

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

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 municipal elections held this year. We hope to repeat this success in conjunction with the upcoming primary and general elections.

 The Voters Alliance endorses candidates who support LGBT initiatives and privacy rights, based, in part, on:
  • How a candidate has voted on LGBT issues.
  • How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBT community.

The Voters Alliance is currently midway through our endorsement process for the August 26 primary election. To date, we have made the following endorsements:
  • U.S. Congressman (Dist. 18) - Patrick Murphy
  • U.S. Congressman (Dist. 20) - Alcee Hastings
  • U.S. Congressman (Dist. 21) - Ted Deutch
  • U.S. Congresswoman (Dist. 22) - Lois Frankel
  • Florida State Representative (Dist. 81) - Kevin Rader
  • County Commissioner (Dist. 2) - Paulette Burdick
  • Circuit Court Judge - Jaimie Goodman
  • Palm Beach County School Board Member (Dist. 3) - Karen Brill
  • Palm Beach County School Board Member (Dist. 6) - Marcia Andrews
  • Palm Beach County School Board Member (Dist..7) - Debra Robinson
  • Palm Beach County Port Commissioner (Group 5) - Peyton McArthur
We continue to screen, interview and endorse additional candidates for both the August 26 primary election and the November 4 general election. To keep track of our endorsements as they are updated, please check our Endorsements page.

Additionally, PBCHRC supporters will have the opportunity to meet candidates seeking state and local office, as well as other LGBT-supportive public officials, at our biennial Summer SoirĂ©e, which will be held on August 9, 2014, at the West Palm Beach home of Christopher Caneles and Steve Nesbitt. To find more information, to help sponsor and/or to purchase tickets, please check our Events page.

With the progress on marriage equality that is sweeping the nation, it now appears that marriage equality will reach Florida eventually.

Palm Beach Gardens residents Sloan Grimsley and Joyce Albu, along with seven other Florida same-sex married couples, have sued the state in federal court for recognition of their out-of-state marriages. Kudos go out to Sloan, Joyce and the other plaintiffs — as well as the ACLU of Florida — for bringing this lawsuit in federal court.

The issue of recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages is also in state court before the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach. Florida Atlantic University student Gildas Dousset, whose husband is a longtime Florida resident, was denied in-state tuition that is granted to opposite-sex married couples. If Gildas is successful, the State of Florida -- or at least Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties -- could be required to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Kudos to Gildas and his husband for taking a stand -- and to his attorney George Castrataro.

Additionally, several other lawsuits seeking marriage equality have been filed in both state and federal courts in Florida, and we eagerly await their outcome.

However, it is important to keep in mind that until the entire state of Florida recognizes same-sex marriages (or until Congress updates applicable federal laws), married gay and lesbian Florida residents will continue to be denied the Social Security and Veterans Affairs spousal benefits which are currently enjoyed by legally married gay men and lesbians living in states which recognize marriage equality.

Until all federal and state civil rights laws become LGBT-inclusive – and until marriage equality is extended  throughout Florida – PBCHRC will remain vigilant in its efforts to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

PBCHRC was a proud sponsor of the documentary film “Before You Know It” at the Lake Worth Playhouse Stonzek Theatre in June. The movie chronicled the lives of three gay men as they addressed challenges facing them as gay seniors.

Thanks to the work of our LGBT colleagues at Florida Atlantic University, some progress continues to be made on the implementation of a domestic partner health insurance stipend policy. The new policy may be found at www.fau.edu/hr/files/DPHIS_FAU.pdf. However, the current policy continues to exclude employees with working spouses. This discriminatory exclusion often results in higher out-of-pocket expenses for gay and lesbian couples, as the cost for maintaining separate health insurance policies for each spouse is generally higher than a single family policy.

The Council's current projects include persuading:
  • The City of Boca Raton to rescind Ordinance No. 5161;
  •  The City of Riviera Beach to amend its nondiscrimination policies and ordinances to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”
  • Florida Atlantic University to amend its anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy to include “gender identity or expression” and to eliminate the discriminatory provisions in the school’s domestic partnership health insurance policy.
  • 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 or out-of-state same-sex marriages as are provided to families based on legally recognized marriages.
  • All public employers within Palm Beach County offering 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 Board Member Hutch Floyd and I will be participating in November in the 2014 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in San Francisco. The following month, PBCHRC 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. While in New York, Trent will also be participating in the Family Law

These conferences bring together the best and brightest legals minds in the country, and PBCHRC is proud to continue its relationship these incredible legal organizations.

Finally, PBCHRC Treasurer Dan Hall and I were proud to represent the Council at President Obama’s LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House on June 30. We were also pleased to attend a policy briefing on LGBT issues at the White House prior to the reception with the President and First Lady.

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

This paid electioneering communication, which is independent of any party, candidate or committee, is produced, sponsored and paid for by the The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance.
Post Office Box 267
West Palm Beach, Florida 33402
(561) 358-0105