Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MESSAGE FROM PBCHRC'S PRESIDENT & FOUNDER - March 15, 2017

March 15, 2017

In light of the appointments and statements made by the Trump-Pence administration, it appears protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans is not a priority. The Republican-led Congress appears to be willing to continue to ignore pro-LGBTQ legislation. 

Florida Governor Rick Scott has refused to respond to PBCHRC's latest request to amend his executive order on state employment and government contracting to include "sexual orientation" and "gender or identity expression." Neither Governor Scott nor the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature appear to have made our issues a priority. 

It is likely that the decade-long efforts to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida's Fair Housing Act to include "sexual orientation" and "gender or identity expression" will once again fall on deaf ears.  Therefore, now, more than ever, local advocacy is the most effective way to achieve progress for the LGBTQ community. 

SUCCESSES  IN THE 2017 MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
Since 1988, volunteers for the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) have interviewed hundreds of candidates for public office. We have done this to educate candidates and public officials, and select candidates for endorsements.  PBCHRCVA endorses candidates who support LGBTQ initiatives and privacy rights. Endorsements of candidates are made upon consideration of:

●    How a candidate has voted on LGBTQ issues
●    How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBTQ community

Over the past several months, PBCHRCVA has reviewed the records of incumbent office holders throughout the county and has interviewed numerous candidates seeking election to municipal offices. Much of the Council's ability to screen, interview and endorse candidates rests on the shoulders of Rae Franks, who has served as the Council's Secretary since the early-1990s. The entire Board of Directors is grateful to the time and energy Rae has spent over the past several months - and over many, many years - contacting candidates, scheduling interviews, and asking the questions that help us make difficult endorsement choices.

Over the years, PBCHRCVA has worked diligently to identify LGBTQ-supportive residents and get them registered to vote. In the past few weeks, we conducted an extensive Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaign in several municipalities. We encouraged our supporters to get their LGBTQ-friendly family, co-workers and friends to vote-by-mail or to get to the polls on Tuesday to vote for candidates endorsed by PBCHRCVA.

Once again, LGBTQ voters throughout Palm Beach County turned out in record numbers. Together with our allies throughout the County, we helped elect (or re-elect) the following municipal officials to hold office in 2017:
  • Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie
  • Boca Raton City Council Member Scott Singer
  • Boynton Beach City Commissioner Joe Casello
  • Greenacres City Councilwoman Lisa Rivera
  • Greenacres City Councilwoman Paula Bousquet
  • Lake Worth City Commissioner  Herman Robinson
  • Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Danielle Hickox Moore
  • Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Mark Marciano
  • Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Matthew Lane
Congratulations to all of the elected officials. Rest assured that PBCHRC will be calling on them to take steps to enact laws and policies to provide equal protection, treatment and benefits for the local LGBTQ community.

Since no candidate received more than 50% of the votes in the March 14 municipal election, runoff election will take place on March 28.  PBCHRCVA  has endorsed the following candidates in the runoff elections:
  • Boynton Beach City Commissioner Mack McCray
  • Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Joseph Russo
Thanks to your support of our efforts, throughout Palm Beach County it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation. In fact, there are now 117 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies which provide Palm Beach County's LGBTQ  residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits.  A complete list can be found by going to www.pbchrc.org/our-impact and clicking on "Laws & Policies".

BANNING CONVERSION THERAPY
PBCHRC's top priority for 2017 is to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors (a discredited method of counseling based on the erroneous assumption that LGBTQ identities are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment) throughout Palm Beach County.

Conversion therapy has long been rejected by our nation's leading medical and mental health organizations.  Across the nation, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Toledo have all banned the practice of conversion therapy on minors by licensed professionals. In Florida, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and North Bay Village have enacted conversion therapy bans. The Tampa City Council is also likely to enact a similar ban in upcoming weeks.

PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele and I have been coordinating the Trent photo local efforts. We have partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center to work on banning conversion therapy on minors throughout Palm Beach County. As a result of our collaborative efforts, bans on conversion therapy on minors have already been enacted - unanimously - by city commissions in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Boynton Beach. Earlier this month, the Riviera Beach City Council voted unanimously on First Reading to ban conversion therapy. A final reading will he held in the upcoming weeks.  In Delray Beach, city staff is working on a similar ordinance and it is our hope that before the end of April, conversion therapy will be prohibited in that city as well.

In drafting our model conversion therapy ban ordinance, PBCHRC relied heavily on the work done by a longtime PBCHRC ally - Robert Rosenwald, First Assistant City Attorney for Miami Beach. Rob got the ball rolling last year by drafting - and persuading the Miami Beach City Commission to enact - the first conversion therapy ban in Florida. PBCHRC has worked with Rob for more than a decade, both at the City of Miami Beach and at the ACLU of Florida, where Rob served as director of the organization's LGBTQ Advocacy Project. No doubt we will rely on his insight, experience and talent in the years to come, as we move forward with other local LGBTQ-related initiatives.

Assistant West Palm Beach City Attorney Zoë Panarites also has been instrumental in our efforts and successes. Utilizing the draft Trent and I provided, she strengthened the ordinance, which was enacted in West Palm Beach. Zoë's ordinance has been used as the model for all of other municipalities throughout Palm Beach County, as well as for the City of Tampa.

PBCHRC has also been working closely with our Miami-Dade County counterpart, SAVE, which is conducting a similarly successful campaign to ban conversion therapy on minors throughout Miami-Dade County. As the result of the efforts of SAVE, conversion therapy bans have been enacted in Miami Beach, Wilton Manors, Miami, El Portal, Bay Harbor Islands and North Bay Village.

Special thanks go out to local pyschologist and sex therapist Rachel Needle, whose persuasive presentations at public hearings have been instrumental in securing the unanimous passage of our conversion therapy bans in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth. Boynton Beach and Riveiera Beach. PBCHRC will be eternally grateful for Rachel's volunteer work on behalf of LGBTQ youth.
 
Thanks also go out to Lake Worth City Commissioner Andy Amoroso for persuasively addressing the Palm Beach County League of Cities concerning the need to enact local ordinances banning conversion therapy.  As Vice Chair of the National League of Cities LGBT Officials Board, Andy is also taking this message concerning conversion therapy bans nationwide.
 
PBCHRC will work to enact similar bans on conversion therapy in the twelve most populated municipalities in Palm Beach County. Our ultimate goal is to persuade the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to make our county the first in Florida to enact a countywide ban protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy.

DANIEL S. HALL SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARDS 

PBCHRC is now taking applications for the 2017 Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards. The scholarships will be awarded to Palm Beach County high school seniors who have demonstrated an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Applications must be received by midnight April 7, 2017. To apply, please use this link: Bit.ly/PBCHRC2017

GAY POLO

As the result of a very generous contribution from a longtime supporter, PBCHRC will be the presenting sponsor of the 8th Annual International Gay Polo Tournament on Saturday, April 8. The event will take place at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.

PBCHRC hopes that you and your friends will stop by our tailgate space for hors d'oeuvres presented by Ken Keffer Catering, cocktails and camaraderie.  Our refreshments are sponsored by two longtime PBCHRC benefactors -  REALTOR Don Todorich of the Corcoran Group, and Joseph Pubillones Interiors.  We will also be holding a drawing for a painting donated to PBCHRC by local artist Adam Revsen. 

On Friday, April 7, PBCHRC supporters will join the Gay Polo League for this year's Polotini Party at a new location - The Wanderers Club in Wellington. This is a party not to be missed.

For tickets to the events, go to www.gaypolo.com/tickets/

THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES
In February, The Women's March Florida held a 4,000 person march from Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach to Mar-a-Lago, the Winter White House in Palm Beach. The local LGBTQ group, led by PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman invites PBCHRC supporters and allies to be a part of the Women's March Florida contingent at the PrideFest Parade in downtown Lake Worth on Sunday, March 26, 2017. Line-up for the parade begins at 10:00 - 10:30 a.m. on Lucerne Street. For further information, contact Meredith at meredith.ockman@gmail.com.

SAVE THE DATE - JANUARY 13, 2018
The 2018 Winter Fête will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Tarpon Cove, the Palm Beach home of James Berwind and Kevin Clark.  Watch for details in the months to come! 

OTHER NEWS
As mentioned above, on February 7, PBCHRC sent a third letter to Governor Rick Scott requesting him to update his Executive Order on "Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government" to specifically include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" as protected classes. However, once again, the request appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

PBCHRC has recently persuaded Palm Beach County to update the definition of "sexual orientation" in the County's Code of Ordinances.  It was first defined back in 1990, as "male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice".  That definition was widely used throughout the 1980s and 1990s. For obvious reasons, PBCHRC objected to use of the word "preference." The County Attorney has agreed to recommend that the definition be updated to read "heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality, whether actual or perceived."

Finally, PBCHRC is now working with Palm Beach County's newest municipality, the City of Westlake, on an LGBT-inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance.

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBTQ community. With your support, we will continue to do so in the years to come - and we will keep you posted on our progress!
Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder  

1 comment: