Friday, June 16, 2017

President's Message - June 2017

On June 11, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and other LGBTQ and allied organizations celebrated at the Equality Rally for Unity and Pride organized by Compass at West Palm Beach City Hall. Speaker after speaker reminded the crowd how fortunate  Palm Beach County's LGBTQ citizens are compared to those living in other parts of the state and country.

Rand Photo 2013 Unlike Floridians living in approximately 85% of Florida's 67 counties, Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and a full range of public accommodations. Our public school students are protected from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Unmarried lesbian and gay couples can register as domestic partners and enjoy limited benefits. More and more LGBTQ youth are being protected from the abuses related to so-called "conversion therapy."

As I stated addressing rally attendees,"All Floridians and all Americans - not just those of us in Palm Beach County - should enjoy the same rights, benefits and protections." However, outside of South Florida and a few pockets here and there in the Sunshine State, little is being done to ensure that any progress will be made for LGBT people statewide and nationwide in the foreseeable future.

For the eleventh consecutive year, the Florida Legislature has failed to amend the Florida Civil Rights Act and Florida's Fair Housing Act to include LGBTQ Floridians. Moreover, Governor Rick Scott, like his predecessor Charlie Crist, has failed to issue an executive order providing equal treatment for LGBTQ state employees and contractors.

In our nation's capital, no action has been taken on the Equality Act of 2017 (S.1006/H.R.2282), which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the  Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act and other federal laws to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." These amendments are necessary to provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The Equality Act would also update the definition of "public accommodations" to include virtually every place where business is conducted throughout the country.

The Equality Act has been co-sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (and 45 other members of the U.S. Senate) as well as by Representatives Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings (and 193 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives).

Based on the appointments and statements made by the Trump-Pence administration, as well as inaction by Congressional leaders, it appears that protecting the rights of LGBTQ Americans is simply not a national priority.

Therefore, we must continue to act locally to ensure LGBTQ people are provided with equal rights, protections and benefits.


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

PBCHRCVA reviewed the records of incumbent office holders throughout the county and interviewed numerous candidates seeking election to municipal offices in this spring's municipal elections. 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 Rae for the time and energy she 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.

PBCHRCVA works diligently to identify more LGBTQ-supportive residents and get them registered to vote. In the weeks before the elections, we conducted an extensive  Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) campaign in several municipalities. We encouraged supporters to get their LGBTQ-friendly family, co-workers and friends to vote-by-mail or get to the polls 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 officials to hold office in 2017:

Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie 
Boca Raton City Councilman Scott Singer  
Boynton Beach City Commissioner Joe Casello 
Boynton Beach City Commissioner Mack McCray  
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

You can be sure that PBCHRC will be calling on all public officials to take steps to enact laws and policies to provide equal protection, treatment and benefits for the local LGBTQ community.

Thanks to your support of our efforts, it is illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation throughout Palm Beach County. In fact, there are now 120 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 and clicking on "Laws & Policies."

While no more elections are scheduled for 2017 in Palm Beach County, PBCHRCVA is already fielding requests for endorsements for candidates running for public offices in 2018.  For a list of the candidates PBCHRCVA has endorsed, click here.


PBCHRC's top priority for 2017 is to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors throughout Palm Beach County. (Conversion therapy, long discredited by the nation's leading medical and mental health organizations, is counseling based on the erroneous assumption that LGBTQ identities are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment).

Across the nation, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati (OH), Seattle (WA), Pittsburgh (PA), Toledo (OH) and Columbus (OH) have laws preventing licensed mental health providers from offering conversion therapy to minors. (New York's ban is uniquely the result of an executive order signed Governor Andrew Cuomo and not legislation.)

In Florida, the municipalities of West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Riviera Beach, Delray Beach, Miami, Wilton Manors, Miami Beach, Bay Harbor Islands, El Portal, Key West and Tampa have banned the practice. In June, both the Wellington Village Council and the Miami-Dade County Commission approved (on First Reading) ordinances banning conversion therapy for minors. Final Readings in both jurisdictions are expected to be held soon.

PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele and I have been coordinating the 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 locally.

 Special thanks go our to Dr. Racehl Needle, a local

psychologist andsex therapist. Her  persuasive presentations at public hearings have been instrumental in securing the passage of all of the  conversion therapy bans enacted to date in Palm Beach County. PBCHRC is grateful for Rachel's volunteer work on behalf of LGBTQ youth.
In the months to come, PBCHRC will work to enact similar bans on conversion therapy in our county's most populated municipalities. Our ultimate goal is to persuade the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to enact a countywide ban protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy before the end of the year.


Jax Martin and Dan Hall
For the third year, PBCHRC presented Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards to local high school seniors in recognition of both the work they have done to benefit the LGBTQ community and the work we expect them to do in the future. At the Lavender Graduation held at Compass earlier this month, the scholarships were presented to:

Matthew Nadel, a senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Matt is the founder and president of his school's Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which functions as both a supportive space for LGBTQ students and an on-campus activism organization. He successfully advocated for eight gender-neutral restrooms on the Dreyfoos campus and pioneered the school's Safe Space program. Matt also serves on the National Student Council of GLSEN, the nation's largest organization devoted to LGBTQ activism in K-12 school. Matthew will carry his passion for social action to Yale University, where he plans to pursue a double major in Political Science and Film & Media Studies.
Jax Martin, a senior at Boynton Beach High School. Jax is a young and outspoken individual that has a passion for serving those in the community, specifically within the LGBTQ community. Jax was the president of the Boynton Beach High School Gay Straight Alliance, attends and contributes to the youth group at Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center. He has a passion for safer sex advocacy and aspires to work in the field of HIV prevention or within an area of the LGBTQ community that is underserved.

Thanks go out to PBCHRC Vice President Carly Cass for coordinating the scholarship program by reviewing applications, interviewing applicants and nominating students for consideration by the PBCHRC Board.


Vice President Jessica Blackman and Board Member Matthew McWatters have left the Board of Directors as the result of relocations. Jess will move back to New England and Matt has already moved to Fort Myers.

During her tenure as Vice President, Jess coordinated PBCHRC's efforts in educating lawyers from around the state on cutting edge legal issues facing the LGBTQ community. She was also instrumental in the City of Palm Beach Gardens enacting domestic partnership benefits long before marriage equality became the law in Florida.

Matt, with his extensive political contacts, was instrumental in a number of our political initiatives. He also maintained  PBCHRC's  Facebook page, which has long provided LGBTQ news and commentary.

PBCHRC thanks Jess and Matt for their dedication and service to the LGBTQ community and wishes them the best in their new endeavors.

The Board of Directors has elected Carly Cass to serve as Vice President.  Our youngest board member, Carly focuses primarily on education, youth and organizing. She has worked extensively with the School Board to ensure that sex education curriculum includes LGBTQ and safe sex issues.  Additionally, she is an amazing organizer and networker.

PBCHRC is pleased to announce two new board members; both have already immersed themselves in our program to ban conversion therapy.

Marcie Hall is a Certified Fund Raising Executive with an extensive background in healthcare philanthropy, serving over 25 years in the non-profit sector.  She holds a graduate degree in non-profit management from Florida Atlantic University, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is thrilled to be a part of history -- on the night when gay marriage became legal in Florida, she and Chris, her partner of 33 years, were one of the 81 couples who said "I do" in a group ceremony at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach.  Before joining the PBCHRC Board, Marcie worked as a volunteer and she was instrumental in having the City of Delray Beach enact an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance.  Shortly after she joined the board, Marcie led the campaign which resulted in the Delray Beach City Commission unanimously enacting an ordinance banning conversion therapy for minors.  Marcie and Chris are longtime residents of  Delray Beach.
Michael Duquette Fowler is Vice President, Information Management of NextEra Energy Resources. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from John Hopkins University and has received numerous awards in his field.  Michael also is on the Technology Advisory Committee for the Palm Beach County School Board.  Michael has been working closely with PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele in urging the Palm Beach Gardens City Council to move forward with a conversion therapy ban. Michael and his partner David live in Palm Beach Gardens.

Thanks to the generosity of one of PBCHRC's major donors, we were the presenting sponsor of this year's Gay Polo Tournament. Our longstanding partnership with the International Gay Polo League has resulted in the enactment of numerous laws and policies in the Village of Wellington providing equal rights and benefits for Village employees.

Joseph Pubillones, Rand Hoch 
and Don Todorich 

PBCHRC thanks Don Todorich of The Corcoran Group and Joseph Pubillones Interiors for again co-sponsoring the PBCHRC Tailgate space. PBCHRC supporters enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of polo, cocktails and camaraderie.

PBCHRC's 30th Anniversary

On Saturday evening, January 13, 2018,  PBCHRC will kick off our 30th anniversary celebrations with our annual Winter Fête for major donors.  This year's event will be held at Tarpon Cove, the Palm Beach home of James Berwind and Kevin Clark.

PBCHRC is also seeking donors to help underwrite our Winter Fête. Benefactors who contribute $3,000 will receive four tickets and Sponsors who contribute $1,500 will receive two tickets to the event. All underwriters will be invited to a fabulous pre-party at a private home in early January. To date, our underwriters to date include:

James Berwind and Kevin Clark
Daniel S. Hall 
The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A. 
Trent Steele and Wayne Lewis
State Representative Lori Berman
Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt 
MBAF, Accountants and Advisors, LLC 
J. P. Sasser 
Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney

Tickets are $300 per person and since tickets to both the 2016 and 2017 Winter Fêtes sold out long before we had the opportunity to send out invitations, we expect the 2018 Winter Fête to do the same.

To become a Benefactor or a Sponsor 
or to buy individual tickets click here.  

*    Earlier this year, PBCHRC sent our 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, it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
*    In May, the Harvey Milk Foundation presented PBCHRC Treasurer Dan Hall with the 2017 Diversity Honors Award for his volunteer work for the LGBTQ community spanning more than three decades.
*    After serving as PBCHRC's representative on the Palm Beach County School District's Diversity & Equity Committee for the past five years, Mark Rutherford has stepped down.  PBCHRC thanks Mark for tireless dedication to the public school students throughout Palm Beach County.
*    Longtime PBCHRC supporter Joseph Pubillones, whose daughter is a student at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, has been appointed as  PBCHRC's new  representative on the Palm Beach County School District's Diversity & Equity Committee.
*    PBCHRC Vice President Carly Cass continues to work closely with school board members and school district staff as work continues on developing a comprehensive sex education program which will be LGBTQ-inclusive.
*    Concerned about the effects of conversion therapy on public school students, several school board members have begun to scrutinize School District contracts with mental health and social service providers. Their goal is to ensure that no taxpayer dollars go to practitioners of conversion therapy.
*    Three of Palm Beach County's representatives in Congress - Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings - have signed on as co-sponsors of the Therapeutic Fraud Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 2119). If enacted, the practice of conversion therapy will be banned nationwide.
*    Later this month, I will meet with Congressman Brian Mast to discuss the possibility of his becoming a co-sponsor of both H.R. 2119 and the Equality Act of 2017 (H.R.2282).  As mentioned above, the Equality Act has already been co-sponsored by Representatives Deutch, Frankel and Hastings. I will keep you posted of the outcome of my meeting with Congressman Mast.
*    PBCHRC continues to work with Palm Beach County's newest municipality, the City of Westlake, on an LGBTQ-inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance.
*    In August, PBCHRC's Litigation Chair Trent Steele, Secretary Rae Franks and I will be attending the annual Lavender Law conference. Since its inception in 1988, Lavender Law has brought together LGBTQ and allied legal professionals to both look back at our shared history of achievement and to look forward to the advancements being made at the cutting edge of the legal profession. 
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    

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