Tuesday, March 31, 2015

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio places travel ban on city-funded trips to Indiana

March 31, 2015

In the wake of Indiana's passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio became the first mayor in Florida to place a travel ban on city-funded trips to Indiana.

"For more than two decades, West Palm Beach has been in the forefront, protecting the civil rights and ensuring equality for the LGBT community," said Muoio. "Until Indiana's discriminatory law is amended or repealed, West Palm Beach taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people."

Mayor Muoio took this action at yesterday's City Commission meeting at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local civil rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
"Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act
sanctions outright discrimination against LGBT people," said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Human Rights Council.  "We commend Mayor Muoio for putting her strong beliefs against bigotry into action by prohibiting taxpayer dollarsbeing used in Indiana."

Similar travel bans have been put into place by states of Connecticut and Washington, as well as the cities of Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.

Muoio's concern goes beyond her own city.

"The U.S. Conference of Mayors is scheduled to meet in Indianapolis next year," explained Muoio.  "If Indiana's law is not changed, I am going to ask the Conference to move the meeting to a more accepting locale."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In-Depth: Equality Florida’s Endorsements Under Scrutiny


(L to R) West Palm Beach Mayor Geraldine “Jeri” Muoio, Rand Hoch- President of Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Allan Hendricks- Equality Florida's Balm Beach County rep, Scott Herman- former State House candidate

In-Depth: Equality Florida’s Endorsements Under Scrutiny
Inconsistencies found in way state’s largest LGBT rights org backs candidates

By Jason Parsley, South Florida Gay News
March 25, 2015

Few people would dispute that West Palm Beach Mayor Geraldine “Jeri” Muoio is a champion of LGBT rights.

As mayor, and long before, she stood with the LGBT community on issues like adding more health benefits to domestic partnerships; adding gender identity and expression to the city’s equal opportunity ordinance; extending family leave benefits to domestic partners; and attending LGBT pride events.

Compass, the LGBT community center of Palm Beach County, even honored the mayor with their Leadership Award in 2011 for her continuing efforts.

So when the Equality Florida Action PAC endorsed Muoio’s opponent, one of Palm Beach County’s leading LGBT rights activists, Rand Hoch, was perplexed.

And then outraged.

“We worked so closely, and so hard with Jeri that for them to totally ignore her and send out this list to their 20,000 subscribers in Palm Beach County was an insult,” said Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “I just thought ‘I can’t believe we’re going through this again.’”

After examining Equality Florida’s endorsement process, SFGN found gaps and inconsistencies in the way it determines its candidates of choice, and that it relies too heavily on questionnaires, as well as a general failure to effectively work with local LGBT organizations.

This isn’t the first time Hoch has been upset with an Equality Florida endorsement. His beef with them dates back to at least 2004.

And over the years he’s repeatedly told them to “Stay the hell out of Palm Beach County.”

In the week leading up to an election, Hoch said, it’s his job to help elect those candidates PBCHRC endorsed. Because of Equality Florida’s oversight, he instead had to shift into damage control mode explaining to supporters and candidates why another LGBT group endorsed Muoio’s opponent.
Allan Hendricks, Equality Florida’s PBC representative, admits his organization made a mistake by sending out that email ignoring Muoio, but says, it was corrected within 24 hours and so there’s no harm, no foul done.

“It was a misstep. We shouldn’t have sent it out,” Hendricks admitted. “I don’t know why it went out that way. I know we were quick to fix it though. We jumped into solution mode within the hour. I don’t think we’ll make that mistake again in Palm Beach County.”

As for Hoch he added: “I don’t know how it spiraled out of control. We’ve been doing good for the past few years.”

Hendricks, along with Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director of Equality Florida, believe Hoch is just blowing the whole situation out of proportion — again.

“Rand Hoch is well known for voicing his opinions at full volume,” Pollitzer said.

Needless to say, Hoch doesn’t see it that way.

He believes Equality Florida’s endorsements are often counterproductive.

After Hoch sent a flurry of emails to Equality Florida’s leadership detailing Muoio’s accomplishments, the organization quietly changed their online voter guide while sending out a new e-blast endorsing Muoio.

“Thank you for sharing this information with us and for immediately bringing our attention to the deficits in our Palm Beach voting guide,” Stratton Pollitzer responded to Hoch in an email. “We have taken the Palm Beach guide off of our website and will be reissuing information once the PAC board has had the opportunity to review this additional information.”

Endorsements and Recommendations and Checkmarks…Oh My!


Equality Florida has three ways in which they endorse a candidate — even though two of them aren’t true endorsements.

Sometimes they officially endorse a candidate, such as they did with Muoio. Other times, Hendricks explained, they may recommend a candidate, or just post a candidate’s answers to their questionnaire online.

But you wouldn’t be able to tell these subtle differences on Equality Florida PAC’s online voter guide where it simply states:

“Equality Florida Action PAC is the largest organization in Florida devoted to electing pro-equality candidates to all levels of government. Each election cycle our endorsements are a valuable source for hundreds of thousands of voters statewide.”

Taking a closer look at the organization’s statewide endorsements revealed other gaps and deficiencies in its endorsement process. Only six or so — out of 67 — counties featured any endorsements at all. While it’s unclear how many elections, were or are taking place in those counties, two in particular stand out — Miami-Dade and Duval.

“The website purports to have all of this information that it doesn’t have,” said Jamie Foreman, a former board member of Equality Florida and a current member of PBCHRC.

As of press time, no endorsements have been made in Miami-Dade’s upcoming elections. The online Voter Guide only links to the county’s election website.

In Duval County though, Equality Florida did, however, recommend several candidates in the Jacksonville city council race, but you wouldn’t know it by looking online at their voter guide where none of those recommendations are even listed.

Instead it appears they were only sent out in e-blast saying “the following candidates support a fully inclusive HRO and are running highly competitive campaigns.”

In this email the word “endorsement” is not used.

The subtle differences between Equality Florida’s endorsements, recommendations and questionnaire’s may be lost on the average voter.

“When EqFL sends out notifications about elections and some candidates’ names are followed by a row of huge checkmarks in their signature green color — that makes a clear statement. Especially when other candidates' names are only followed by barely visible dashes,” Hoch explained. “They can call it a recommendation, call it an endorsement, call it a penguin if they want to. It doesn't make a difference. A picture speaks 1,000 words.”

Hendricks said a candidate will only get the organization’s “official” endorsement if they feel comfortable with their members giving money to that candidate.

In examining their endorsements in Broward County, two of the races had “endorsed candidates” — involving Dean Trantalis and Bryan Caletka. In three other races, only one candidate’s answers to their questionnaire are featured. It’s unclear if the other folks in the race did not fill out the survey on purpose, or it was an oversight on candidate’s part. But not filling it out doesn’t mean those people are anti-LGBT. Anything but. In fact in the case of Jeri Muoio it’s quite the opposite.

“Jeri is an outspoken advocate for us,” Hoch said.

And that is the inherent problem with a questionnaire-based endorsement process, as Hoch, and others point out.

Hendricks though defended his group’s reliance on questionnaires.

“This way we’ll have people on the record,” he said. “If they’re not willing to go on record they can tell you anything they want.”

Moving Forward

As for the solution going forward there might not be one – at least in PBC.

Hoch’s solution is for Equality Florida to simply stay out of the county. Hendricks said that’s not going to happen.

“We’re not leaving Palm Beach County, that’s out of the question. It’s all way too connected to leave. It’s not the right thing to do. That would be harmful,” Hendricks said. “It would be disrespectful to our membership in Palm Beach County. The more information we put out there – the better. People want us to work together.”

In the past Hoch has been amenable to finding a way to work together.
But not anymore.

“We cannot rely on what they say they will do in the future. Years ago they said they would contact PBCHRC Voters Alliance before they sent out anything having to do with elections in our county. I think they did that in only one or two election cycles,” Hoch said. “They also said at one time they would provide a link to PBCHRCVA endorsements on the information they sent out. But again they stopped doing that.”

As for Equality Florida’s endorsement process Hendricks doesn’t think anything needs to change.
“I am completely comfortable with our process,” he said. “I think we have some really talented people on the [PAC] board.”

But sometimes, he admits, mistakes do happen as did with the case of the botched Muoio endorsement.

Pollitzer is also comfortable with the process.

“We put our candidates through a rigorous review process,” he said. “Equality Florida has over 20,000 members in Palm Beach County who count on us to be a trusted source of election information.”

But not everyone agrees. One candidate disputed Equality Florida’s “rigorous” process.

“No one interviewed me,” said Scott Herman, an openly gay Broward politician, who has run twice for the Florida State House. “Everything was based on a questionnaire.”

That wasn’t Herman’s only gripe with the process either.

He, along with James Eddy, a candidate for Jacksonville’s city council in this election cycle, were especially upset with Equality Florida’s fundraising requirement – they were told that unless they raised at least one-third of the highest candidate’s total dollars they would not be endorsed.

“We look at a lot of things, including the candidate’s ability to raise money,” Pollitzer said. “If the candidate hasn’t raised any money then we are not going to endorse them.”

Herman shot back: “They’re letting their community down and sending the wrong message. There have been plenty of races where money did not win the election.”

Herman added that Equality Florida has forgotten the principles they were founded on.

“Two decades ago they did not have the funding, but it didn’t stop them,” he said.

The first time Herman ran for office, in 2012, he raised little money and was not endorsed — neither was his opponent.

But Herman proudly filled out his questionnaire in that election, yet it still took a phone call for them to finally post it online. His opponent in the race, a long time supporter of LGBT rights, who eventually won the election, did not fill out a survey.

The second time he ran, in 2014, he infused his own cash into his campaign and received Equality Florida’s endorsement — yet still wasn’t happy.

“I was an LGBT democrat, who supported LGBT rights across the board, but the endorsement didn’t come until I funded my campaign, ” he said. “Plus they didn’t send out an e-blast or alert the community. Even after I funded my campaign I still had to call a couple of them to find out what was going on.”

A History of Complaints

PBCHRC isn’t the only organization Equality Florida has butted heads with over their endorsement process, and more generally speaking, their involvement on the county level.

These complaints date back years, with the most public of such, being in 2010 when several local groups across the state came together and signed on to a letter

asking Equality Florida to stay out areas that had a local LGBT group and instead focus their efforts on areas with no representation.

Those groups included SAVE (formerly known as SAVE Dade), Unity Coalition, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances and the Leon County GSA Council.

SFGN reached out to most of the above organizations asking for an update on their relationship with Equality Florida.

The Unity Coalition sidestepped the question calling the point moot as they no longer endorse candidates. SAVE also did not comment directly on the situation, only saying they do not work with, or consult with, any outsides groups on their endorsements and were not contacted by Equality Florida about this election cycle.

However the founder of Broward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances, Ryan Terrell, who now serves at the Florida Democratic LGBTA Caucus Region 1 Director, did have a few choice words.
“In terms of endorsements, Equality Florida for years now has been making political decisions out of the blue without consulting local activists on the ground,” he said.

Here’s a snippet of what the letter says:

We are writing to again express our displeasure and frustration with Equality Florida’s endorsement process and unilateral engagement in local political races…win or lose on your endorsements, Equality Florida has the luxury of going home. For us, this is home. Since Equality Florida bills itself as a state organization, we’re not even certain why there is such a focus on local politics in our area. It would be a different matter, of course, if no local organization existed to review these important candidates and races. But this case, each of our local organizations is well established and respected.

[See end of article to read entire letter]

“Why not focus on other counties?” Jamie Foreman asked. “Develop those relationships there like PBCHRC has been doing for the past 20 years. Make a difference. Not just piggy back off of work that’s already been done. Equality Florida has the resources to replicate this model elsewhere and help new organizations get off the ground.”

When SFGN asked Hendricks if it might be a better use of Equality Florida’s statewide resources to focus on those areas Foreman mentions, he said no.

“The statewide organization needs to be a part of PBC and PBC needs to be a part of the state,” he said.

New LGBT Group in Northeast Florida Forms

This year Carrington “Rusty” Mead, a Jacksonville attorney and LGBT rights activist, along with others, formed a political action committee — the Northeast Florida LGBT Leadership PAC.
Despite being such a new group they’ve already offered up a slew of endorsements in the Jacksonville area races.

“It wasn’t hard for us to do, as we all live here and are all familiar with the local politics. The board is made up of a group of very active individuals,” she said. “We just realized there wasn’t a local voice for our community or a consistent voice that could speak with knowledge and integrity. And provide a certain depth of knowledge about the candidates. We needed a more effective message to get out to folks.”

One such endorsement this cycle was James Eddy, a candidate who Equality Florida passed over, because he didn’t meet the fundraising requirement.

“He meets our definition of a qualified candidate,” Mead said. “He’s openly supportive of LGBT issues and has a willingness to advocate on our behalf. That was an easy endorsement.”

Eddy, who’s openly gay, was disappointed that he did receive an endorsement from Equality Florida.
Jacksonville does not have an LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance and so that has been a hot button issue in the city. That’s why Equality Florida’s e-blast recommendations highlighted the candidates who support an inclusive HRO and who are running — what they consider — a competitive race.

“I was definitely surprised since I work hand in hand with them. And I am on the front lines of LGBT issues,” Eddy said. “I have been fighting for the HRO since 2010.”

In 2012 one candidate who scored 100 percent on his questionnaire, Johnny Gaffney, a city councilman, later voted against the HRO.

Mallory Garner-Wells, Equality Florida’s public policy director, called it a fluke.

“We work really hard to ensure people stick to their commitment,” she told Watermark, the LGBT newspaper of Central Florida.

So who did Equality Florida choose this time around over Eddy? That would be Marc McCullough — whose history includes selling cocaine to an undercover detective, pleading guilty to motor vehicle theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

But, as mentioned above, these weren’t “official” endorsements anyway.

Eddy said he just didn’t raise enough money to meet Equality Florida’s threshold, even though when he spoke to SFGN, he had raised more than $6,000.

But Hendricks said the fundraising requirement isn’t actually set in stone.

“It’s not a requirement and it’s not the only thing we look at,” Hendricks said. “Do they have a ground game? What is their voting record? If there was a really big gap [in fundraising] we came up with a process where we would recommend and not endorse.

Hendricks said they also rely on information from local organizations when making their endorsements, pointing to groups such as PBCHRC and PBC National Organization for Women.
Despite Eddy’s lack of fundraising, the Northeast Florida LGBT Leadership PAC chose to endorse him.

When a pro-equality measure was up for a vote in Atlantic Beach, Mead said, Eddy “showed leadership” on the issue and was there to support the bill.

“Our endorsements aren’t based on a bank account or contributions,” she said. “The candidates have to leave us with a feeling that they’re being honest about their positions — Not just support us while they’re running.”

Nor will their endorsements be based on questionnaires.

“Checking the right box is not the way to go. We need to have an intense conversation with the candidate,” she said.

Mead added that it is important to build relationships with candidates even if they don’t get your endorsement the first time around.

Hoch agreed saying his organization builds relationships with candidates that spans years and even decades, so face-to-face interviews are an essential part of that process.

“We have a long time relationship with these people,” Foreman added. “We know their strategies. Some of these things are so nuanced you can’t really get that from a survey. This isn’t about who looks best on paper.”

Neither of the other two groups that SFGN spoke with, SAVE and PBCHRC, have a fundraising requirement.

“SAVE has a strong and transparent endorsement process that is driven by the community that includes sending questionnaires to candidates and then having panel interviews with them. Members of each endorsement panel live in the municipality that we are endorsing in. This process and methodology helps us ensure that the endorsements that we offer the community are authentic and representative of the LGBT voice in each municipality,” said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE.
“We don’t rely on anyone else’s endorsement. Since our work is focused on the local community in South Florida, after we endorse, we continue to work with municipalities to be their resource and voice when it comes to LGBT issues. We’ve been doing this work for 22 years.”

SFGN News Editor John McDonald contributed to this report.

***A request of corrective action for the 2010 elections

We are writing to again express our displeasure and frustration with Equality Florida’s endorsement process and unilateral engagement in local political races.

As leaders of local lesbian and gay rights organizations, our membership and focus is often at the city or county level. Because of our local focus, we care deeply about who represents us in these offices and believe we have valuable experience, insights and history with many of the candidates or elected officials seeking local office.

Not for the first time, Equality Florida has issued formal endorsements in some local races in our communities without discussion or even notice, even after many of us specifically reached out Equality Florida to express the importance of your attention to certain local campaigns & candidates. In some cases, we learned of Equality Florida’s endorsements from the candidates themselves who, because they had support from Equality Florida, expected our default support. In many cases, our organizations had not even concluded our screening and support process.

In addition, we know in several cases where Equality Florida issued unilateral endorsements in local races, there was no process at all. Not all candidates for these local offices were even invited to seek Equality Florida’s support.

While Equality Florida may not see this as a problem, we have to deal with the consequences. Win or lose on your endorsements, Equality Florida has the luxury of going home. For us, this is home.
Since Equality Florida bills itself as a state organization, we’re not even certain why there is such a focus on local politics in our area. It would be a different matter, of course, if no local organization existed to review these important candidates and races. But this case, each of our local organizations is well established and respected.

In addition, when Equality Florida endorses a local candidate without collaboration or consultation it puts our organization in an impossible position. What are we to do when we reach a different conclusion than Equality Florida? Issuing our own, often more informed, endorsements will inevitably expose disagreements in our community and weaken our common purpose.

We know collaboration is possible. When national gay and lesbian organizations such as Victory Fund or HRC are considering even national endorsements in our area, they reach out to us and seek our opinion. And yet, even on local races, Equality Florida seems to reach out by press release.

To be clear, we fully support collaboration on races and political action where we have common purpose such as state legislative races in our areas. We are certain we have valuable information to share about these opportunities that we believe any thorough process would seek to include. This year, even in state legislative races, Equality Florida issued endorsements on its own exposing us to the consequences of disappointed, irate or confused candidates and office holders.

We clearly understand that Equality is not required to meet with any local group to give out endorsements, but collectively, we are again asking that Equality Florida actively seek our input on political actions and endorsements which impact us as residents and our organizations and where possible refrain entirely from issuing exclusive endorsements in local races.

With hope that Equality Florida can correct this action over the remainder of the 2010 elections and in the future, we look forward to being a continued partner in the fight for equality.


J. OrtunoSAVE Dade Action PAC

Herb SosaUnity Coalition|Coalicion Unida

Rand HochPalm Beach County
Human Rights Council Voters Alliance

Ryan Terrell, FounderBroward County Council of Gay-Straight Alliances

Brandon Young, PresidentLeon County GSA Council

Friday, March 20, 2015

End Equality Florida's Continued Interference With Local Elections

On March 12, 2015, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council ("PBCHRC") sent out a post election update to Palm Beach County LGBT and allied supporters.  To view the full text of the update, click here.

One of the sixteen paragraphs in the update read as follows:

(Unfortunately, shortly before the election, Equality Florida sent out an e-mail blast to Palm Beach County LGBT voters that recommended candidates Kimberly Mitchell and Len Fintzy -- the candidates running against  Mayor Muoio and Commissioner James.  After our "insistence," Equality Florida backed down, deleted its recommendations and issued hasty endorsements of the two PBCHRC Voters Alliance-backed candidates.  Equality Florida made similar unwanted interventions into Palm Beach County electoral politics in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and each time we had to expend time and political capital for them to reverse course and align with our endorsements.  PBCHRC has, once again, asked Equality Florida to "cease and desist" from getting involved in Palm Beach County politics. Hopefully this time, we will prevail). 

The PBCHRC Board of Directors and I want to extend an apology to Allan Hendricks, as I should have included the following disclaimer, and I did not:


Shortly after  the update was sent, we were challenged to substantiate our claim that Equality Florida ("EQFL" ) again made "unwanted interventions" into Palm Beach County LGBT politics by recommending two candidates for office in West Palm Beach who were not endorsed by the PBCHRC Voters Alliance.  Here is our  response:
1.    There is no place in Florida where gay men and lesbians residents have been protected from discrimination longer than we have been in Palm Beach County
2.    The City of West Palm Beach was the first public employer in Florida to offer domestic partnership benefits.
3.    Palm Beach County was the first public employer in Florida to provide legal recourse to gay and lesbian county employees who felt they were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.
4.    Between January 16, 1990 (when the Palm Beach County Fair Housing Ordinance was amended to include "sexual orientation") through March 2, 2015 (when the City of Boynton Beach enacted an LGBT-inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance), ninety-two LGBT- supportive laws and policies have been enacted in Palm Beach County.  For a full list of the 92 laws and policies, click here.
5.    Despite any inferences to the contrary, Equality Florida was not responsible for, nor did Equality Florida bring about, any of the 92 laws and policies.

The Facts
On July 14, 2014, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance ("PBCHRCVA") took an extraordinary step by endorsing West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio's bid for re-election, even though the election would not be held until March 10, 2015.  (For a copy of the endorsement letter, click here). The purpose of the early endorsement was to let potential challengers know they could not count on the support of the city's well organized LGBT voters. 

Having worked closely with Mayor Muoio during the previous seven years she held office, PBCHRCVA did not need to interview her.  We based our endorsement not only on her achievements, but also on her outspoken advocacy for the LGBT community.  (A more comprehensive letter detailing Mayor Muoio's her amazing work on our behalf was published widely on February 6, 2015.  To view it, click here.).

From August 4, 2014 through her re-election on March 10, 2015, our endorsement was continuously posted on our website (pbchrc.org).  In addition, the endorsement has been repeatedly posted on the PBCHRC Facebook Page and on the PBCHRC blog.  Moreover, news of the endorsement was repeatedly sent via e-mail to the Palm Beach County voters in PBCHRC's data base.

(When West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell entered the race for mayor in late-December 2015, PBCHRCVA determined that it was not necessary to revisit our endorsement, since we were extremely familiar with Mitchell's record and history, based on our work in West Palm Beach municipal government and politics during the 13 years she held office.)

On January 28, 2015, PBCHRCVA interviewed both incumbent West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James and his challenger, Len Fintzy.  Although we had did not endorse James when he first ran for office, once there, he became an ardent supporter of our initiatives. 

In office, James earned a 100% voting record on our initiatives (including, but not limited to, reimbursing employees for the extra federal taxes paid for insuring their domestic partners, enacting an equal benefits ordinance and joining in on the legal briefs filed in the marriage equality cases).  He also participated in PBCHRC and other LGBT community events.

After the interviews were concluded, PBCHRCVA endorsed Commissioner James.  By February 1, the endorsement publicized in the manner described above.

On February 24, 2015, after absentee ballots had been received, Equality Florida Action PAC sent an e-mail to its supporters in Palm Beach County, which included a link to the "2015 Spring Municipal Voter's  Guide". Here is the screenshot:

As you can see, following Kimberly Mitchell's name, there are six checkmarks (in EQFL's signature green). In contrast, following Mayor Jeri Muoio's name, there are six faint dashes.  That is also the case for with race involving Len Fintzy and City Commissioner Keith James.  These Equality Florida recommendations cause confusion among LGBT voters in Palm Beach County as well as among officeholders and candidates.  These recommendations undermined the political work done by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and our Voters Alliance.

EQFL Action PAC has repeatedly made similar recommendations and omissions (e.g., 2004, 2006 and 2008) and all of which resulted in similar responses by PBCHRC. In 2006, the The Independent reported on the rift and the article may be viewed by clicking viewed here.

Since this problem has not been able to be resolved for more than a decade, PBCHRC requests that the Boards of Equality Florida and the Equality Florida Action PAC direct their employees to cease and desist from any further involvement in electoral politics in Palm Beach County.
Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder
Palm Beach County Human Rights Council 

Reserve Tickets Now For The GPL Brunch During The 6th Annual International Gay Polo Week

The Gay Polo League's annual brunch will be the finale to a fabulous weekend of activities during The 6th Annual International Gay Polo Week at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).
Views of the polo field at the country's most prominent polo club at International Polo Club Palm Beach Sunday brunch.

The elegant brunch will be held on Sunday, April 12 and will feature the sumptuous five-star gourmet brunch on the exclusive member side at the International Polo Club Palm Beach's Mallet Grille.

In addition to fine cuisine, guests will enjoy the excitement of the most prestigious polo tournament in the country, the 111th U.S. Open Polo Championship, a 26-goal competition featuring the world's best polo players and ponies.  

Jean-Marc Herrouin of RBC Wealth Management keeps possession of the ball as he drives downfield during The 5th Annual International Gay Polo Tournament. Photo by Scott Fisher.
"Great venue, great food, great polo adds up to a GREAT day!" said Chip McKenney, founder of the Gay Polo League.
Don't miss out. Book your tickets today and secure your seat for a memorable and delightful experience at one of the most prominent polo facilities in the world.

For tickets to GPL Sunday brunch call (561) 753-3389 or click here.
About the Gay Polo League:
GPL is a community that shares a love for adventure, fun and the challenging sport of polo. GPL is committed to providing members with an enjoyable, supportive and competitive experience. GPL represents a wide range of ages, backgrounds and skill levels. GPL trains and competes in mainstream matches and events while sharing enthusiasm for the sport, to change perceptions about our community.  

For more information about GPL, visit  www.gaypolo.com.  

Tickets are now available for The 6th Annual International Gay Polo Week at www.gaypolo.com/the-event.  

The 6th Annual International Gay Polo Week Fast Facts:

When & Where: 
Thursday, April 9:
Exclusive private VIP Party 

Friday, April 10:
GPL Polotini Party, Poolside at the Mallet Grille International Polo Club Palm Beach 

Saturday, April 11:
Finals of the International Gay Polo Tournament at International Polo Club Palm Beach-Isla Carroll East Field and tailgate competition.
Sunday, April 12: Polo Brunch, Poolside at the Mallet Grille International Polo Club Palm Beach 
To purchase tickets, visit gaypolo.com 

VIP Tables: $1,200 includes seating for six center field, open bar, gourmet food and tableside service throughout the matches.  
Individual VIP: Tickets: $225

Tailgate Price: $375, includes tent, six tickets and one field-side parking place 

VIP Parking: $25

General Admission: $25 (parking additional)

General Admission Parking: $10  
Media Contact:
Phelps Media Group International
12102 South Shore Boulevard, Suite 201
Wellington, FL 33414

Join us at Table 26 for Lambda Legal on April 9

Come Party With Lambda Legal


The party will raise awareness of the great work done by
(as well as raise funds for the organization).

While no donation is required to attend the event,
please be prepared to make a donation. 
(A minimum of $100 per person is suggested)

For more information, contact Brian Marricco
(212) 809-8585, ext. 250

After the party, please head over to 
The Colony Hotel in Palm Beach
for the 
We hope you can attend both events.   

Friday, March 13, 2015

PBCHRC President's Message - March 2015

March 11, 2015

Yesterday was another stellar election day for Palm Beach County's LGBT community.   

Since all of the viable candidates in the West Palm Beach and Lake Worth municipal elections were 100 percent supportive of PBCHRC's initiatives, there was no way it was going to be a bad day.   
In West Palm Beach, with strong support from the PBCHRC Voters Alliance, Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Commissioner Keith James -- both strong advocates for our community -- were re-elected in landslide elections.
(Unfortunately, shortly before the election, Equality Florida sent out an e-mail blast to Palm Beach County LGBT voters that recommended electing Kimberly Mitchell and Len Fintzy -- the candidates running against  Mayor Muoio and Commissioner James.  After our "insistence," Equality Florida backed down, deleted its recommendations and issued hasty endorsements of the two PBCHRC Voters Alliance-backed candidates.  Equality Florida made similar unwanted interventions into Palm Beach County electoral politics in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and each time we had to expend time and political capital for them to reverse course and align with our endorsements.  PBCHRC has, once again, asked Equality Florida to "cease and desist" from getting involved in Palm Beach County politics. Hopefully this time, we will prevail)

PBCHRC President Rand Hoch, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, PBCHRC Treasurer Dan Hall and PBCHRC Past-President Jamie Foreman-Plakas 

Another victory for our community occurred in Lake Worth, where, without PBCHRCVA's endorsement, openly gay, first-time candidate Ryan Maier was elected to the Lake Worth City Commission, where he joins openly gay City Commissioner Andy Amoroso, who was elected in 2011.

Year after year, we have been shown that by electing LGBT- supportive public officials, laws and policies will be enacted which help bring us toward our goal of full equality.  More than 80 local laws and policies now provide Palm Beach County's LGBT residents and visitors with both equal protection and equal family benefits.

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.  However, at this stage of our quest for full equality, merely being supportive no longer cuts it.  We expect our public officials to be outspoken advocates for the LGBT community.

For more than 25 years, our community has been very fortunate with the leadership of the West Palm Beach Mayors Helen Wilkes, Carol Roberts, Jeff Koons, Nancy Graham, Lois Frankel and Jeri Muoio. During their years of public service, each actively recruited LGBT residents to serve on city boards and commissions.  More importantly, each was a consistent advocate for our community.But electing leaders who understand our community's needs is only the means to an end -- full equality.  To get there, we need our elected officials to act.  And since our last President's Update, there has been a lot of action.

Shortly after midnight on January 6, longtime PBCHRC supporters Mike Edmondson and Keith Musbach became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Palm Beach County.  Moments after the private ceremony, Sharon Bock, Palm Beach County's Constitutional Clerk & Comptroller held a mass wedding, marrying dozens of lesbian and gay couples.

Later that day, Peyton McArthur, a longtime PBCHRC supporter, was sworn in as a Commissioner of The Port of Palm Beach.  At the Commission Meeting, he urged his colleagues to include an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination clause in the Port's contract with Bahamas Paradise Cruiseline -- and they voted unanimously to do so.  Commissioner Peyton McArthur then pledged to have similar language included in all future contracts and agreements with the Port.In early February 2015, West Palm Beach Police Chief Bryan Kummerlen appointed Lieutenant Gregory Babcock to serve as the police department's liaison to the city's LGBT community.

Later that week, the West Palm Beach City Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution put forward at PBCHRC's request by Commissioner Keith James asking the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to update the Palm Beach County  Ordinance for Equal Opportunity to Housing and Places of Public Accommodation to provide for a more expansive definition of "public accommodation."

County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is shepherding our campaign to update the definition of "public accommodation" through the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners.  Taylor has been a longtime advocate of LGBT initiatives throughout her career as Port Commissioner, State Representative, County Commissioner and Palm Beach County Mayor. County Attorney Denise Neiman recently told the County Commissioners that her office can easily make the changes. The County Commissioners are awaiting information from the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity concerning the fiscal impact, after which, two votes will be taken to update the definition in the ordinance.  PBCHRC has spoken with a majority of the County Commissioners, all of whom were supportive of the requested changes. 

Once the County ordinance is amended, the West Palm Beach City Commission is expected to amend the City's Equal Opportunity Ordinance accordingly  

As previously reported, last August, the Boynton Beach City Commission had directed the City Attorney to draft a Civil Rights Ordinance and present it to them for consideration.  When no action was taken in a timely manner, PBCHRC forced the issue by filing a public records request in January 2015 to obtain minutes of the meeting at which the direction was given. Finally, on March 2, the Boynton Beach City Commission held the final reading and an LGBT-inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance was enacted. (Mayor Jerry Taylor, who opposed a similar ordinance back in 1993, cast the sole vote against adopting the Civil Rights Ordinance.)

PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman is in the early stages of our initiative to have the Greenacres City Council enact a similar ordinance and revise the city's personnel policies to prohibit discrimination based on both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression".  We are working with the City Attorney and we will keep you informed of our progress.

The Council's other projects include persuading:
  • 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";
  • 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 adopt policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity and expression"; and
  • The City of Boca Raton to rescind Ordinance No. 5161.
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.
Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder
Palm Beach County Human Rights Council 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

UPDATED PBCHRC Voters Alliance Endorsements for the March 10 Elections

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
has endorsed the following candidates in the
March 10 Municipal Elections

West Palm Beach

Mayor Jeri Muoio

PBCHRC's February 6, 2015 letter explains why
West Palm Beach's LGBT and allied voters
should re-elect West Palm Beach Mayor Muoio  
Click here to view the letter

City Commission District 2 
Katherine Waldron 

City Commission District 4 
Keith James 

Lake Worth

City Commission District 2 
Christopher McVoy 


 City Commission District 4 

John Szerdi

To locate your polling place, click here.
If you have any questions about voting,  
please call the Supervisor of Elections at (561) 656-6200. 

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

Boynton Beach enacts civil-rights ordinance

That's why on Tuesday, the city approved a civil-rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination of Boynton Beach City residents because of "race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity or expression, genetic information, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, pregnancy, familial status, or age."
Boynton Beach's decision to enact a civil-rights ordinance puts it in line with other municipalities such as Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Lake Worth and Wellington, as well as Palm Beach County.

"This decision gives us the opportunity to say that there is another LGBT-welcoming place in Palm Beach County," said Rand Hoch, of the Palm Beach Human Rights Council.
The ordinance passed 4-to-1, with Mayor Jerry Taylor dissenting.
Taylor said he voted against the ordinance because of comments Hoch reportedly made about him in a media outlet. "The city has never been for discrimination," Taylor said. "But I am not voting for this based on principle."

Back in 2013, the city's community relations board contacted Hoch about drafting ordinances pertaining to the civil-rights ordinance and domestic partnerships. In October, in a 4-to-1 vote, the city approved domestic partnership benefits for city employees.

Commissioner David Merker said this vote and the city's past vote to allow domestic partnerships moves the city forward.

"It puts the city in the 21st century," he said. "It makes all people equal — not separated by race or religion or any other denominators."

Hoch, who is Palm Beach County's first openly gay judge, says that Boynton Beach is helping to make the area more liberal.

"It feels great to finally get this passed," he said. "Hopefully, we can get momentum from Boynton's decision and make the county a better place for Civil Rights."

aanthony@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6648 or @attiyya_sun