Thursday, December 13, 2018

PBCHRC's Rand Hoch Named a Top Lawyer by Marquis Who's Who


Rand Hoch Named a Top Lawyer by Marquis Who's Who

Judge Hoch has achieved one of Marquis' highest honors for professional excellence

(WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA) Marquis Who's Who, the world's premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to honor Rand Hoch as a Top Lawyer. An accomplished listee, Judge Hoch celebrates many years' experience in his professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. As in all Marquis Who's Whobiographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

In 1992, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles appointed Mr. Hoch to serveas a Judge of Compensation Claim. Prior to his appointment,Mr. Hoch practiced labor, workers' compensation and election law at the Law Office of Gerald A. Rosenthal from 1989 to 1991 and at Kaplan, Sicking and Bloom from 1985 to 1988. Mr. Hoch also served as a research assistant for professor Ruth Fleet Thurman at Stetson University College of Law from 1983 to 1985. Following his tenure on the bench, Judge Hoch formed the Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, where he continues to work as a private mediator helping parties resolve workplace disputes.

Prior to his career in law, Mr. Hoch served as a real estate broker in Florida and as a political consultant in Washington, DC, Massachusetts and Florida. While in undergraduate school at Georgetown University where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in American Government, he served as the research director for the Council of Active Independent Oil and Gas Producers from 1996 to 1997 and as national volunteer coordinator for the Henry M. Jackson for President Committee from 1974 to 1976.

In 1988, Mr. Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local independent advocacy organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. He served as President from 1988 to 1992 and from 2001 to the present. In that capacity, Judge Hoch was instrumental in the enactment of more than 130 laws and policies providing equal rights, protections and benefits for the LGBT community in Florida.

Throughout his career, Judge Hoch has been recognized for his contributions. The recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award from Palm Beach State College, he has also received an Inaugural Diversity Honors Award from the Harvey Milk Foundation. South Florida Gay News named him among their Out 50, and Florida Agenda named him one of Florida's Top 100 LGBT Movers and Shakers. Judge Hoch has been featured in numerous honors publications, including multiple editions of Who's Who in AmericaWho's Who in American LawWho's Who in American Politics, Who's Who in the WorldWho's Who in the South and Southwest, and Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America.

Post-Election Update - November 2018

November 7, 2018 

Across the nation, a  
record number of openly-LGBTQ candidates were elected or re-elected at all levels. 
  • Senator Tammy Baldwin was re-elected to the U.S. Senate.
  • Jared Polis of Colorado became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States.
  • Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the first out LGBTQ governor in history, was re-elected.
  • Sharice Davids of Kansas became the first openly LGBTQ Native American lawmaker in Congress.
  • In addition, a record number of out LGBTQ candidates were elected and re-elected to the U.S. Congress.
  • In Massachusetts, voters upheld non-discrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces.
                                                       Michelle Sylvester

And here in Palm Beach County, an openly-LGBTQ candidate, Michelle Sylvester, was elected to serve on the Soil and Water Conservation Board.

As you know by now, since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has interviewed close to 1,000 candidates for public office. As a result of our successes in electing LGBTQ-supportive candidates, it is illegal in Palm Beach County to discriminate against LGBTQ people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation. In addition, conversion therapy is banned throughout the county. Moreover, there are now more than 130 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies that provide Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits. A complete list can be found on the Laws & Policies page.

While Palm Beach County's LGBTQ and allied supporters have been "super-voters" for decades, this year we were also "super-volunteers." More PBCHRC supporters were volunteers in political campaigns than at any time in our 30 year history. Our supporters also worked on PBCHRCVA's voter identification, early voting, vote-by-mail and get-out-the-vote campaigns. So, it came as no surprise that LGBTQ and allied voters in Palm Beach County turned out in record numbers in yesterday's General Election.

And while most of the candidates endorsed by PBCHRCVA did exceptionally well in our county, others were not elected due to election results in other parts of the state.

The following candidates endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance were elected - or re-elected - to office yesterday:
State Senator Bobby Powell
State Representative Matt Willhite
State Representative  David Silvers 
County Commissioner Gregg Weiss
County Commissioner Robert Weinroth
Port Commissioner Joseph Anderson
County Court Judge Ashley Zuckerman
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member Michelle
   Sylvester
Palm Beach Soil & Water Conservation Board Member Eva Webb

PBCHRC congratulates all of these candidates --and sends very special congratulations to Michelle Sylvester, Palm Beach County's most recent LGBTQ resident to be elected to public office!

In three very close races, PBCHRCVA-endorsed candidates remain unsure of their futures, as there could be recounts in these races:
  • U.S. Senator Bill Nelson
  • Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried
  • Candidate for State Representative (Dist. 89) Jim Bonfiglio
We'll keep you posted of the results of any recounts!


CONGRATULATIONS
TO THE CITY OF WEST PALM BEACH
FOR ANOTHER PERFECT SCORE
ON THE MUNICIPAL EQUALITY INDEX

The City of West Palm Beach has again earned a perfect score on the sixth annual Human Rights Campaign Foundation Municipal Equality Index (MEI) ranking of cities across the United States. 

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and City leadership's public position on equality.



STATUS UPDATE
CONVERSION THERAPY BANS COURT CHALLENGE
This summer, the Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, filed suit in federal court against Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton, seeking to nullify their bans on conversion therapy for minors. The lawsuit is virtually identical to the one the Liberty Counsel filed last December against the City of Tampa. Similar lawsuits have been filed for years, and not one has succeeded in overturning a conversion therapy ban. In fact, on four occasions , the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear cases challenging the bans. However, as the Supreme Court turns further and further to the right on social issues, the Liberty Counsel is seeking another chance to allow therapists to abuse LGBTQ children through conversion therapy.
In October, a daylong hearing was held before U.S. District Court Judge Robin Rosenberg on the plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Injunction. A ruling is expected before year's end and PBCHRC will continue to keep you informed on the status of the case as it works its way through the court system.


RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND INITIATIVES
  • On Monday night, the Ocean Ridge Town Council enacted an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination throughout the town. Thanks go out to Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio for his leadership with this initiative.
  • In October, the School Board of Palm Beach County adopted an Equity Policy, to show the Board's commitment to eliminating race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or socioeconomic status as predictors for academic success.
  • On September 24, West Palm Beach City Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at eliminating bullying and harassment in city facilities and at programs the city provides at the Mandel Public Library, as well as at the community centers at Coleman, Gaines, Howard and South Olive Parks. Thanks go out to City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf for taking the lead on this initiative.
  • As one more way to make trans residents feel more welcome, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio has directed city staff to implementing a citywide requirement for equal access to sex-segregated restrooms. By years end, all single-stall restrooms on city-owned properties will be designated as "All-Gender."
  • West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and City Commissioner Christina Lambert have begun working with PBCHRC and Compass on initiatives to assist LGBTQ seniors.
  • Within the next few months, the City of West Palm Beach will be installing an LGBTQ Pride Rainbow Crosswalk at a location to be determined.
  • PBCHRC is also working on an initiative to see if the Health Care District of Palm Beach County can provide transition related healthcare services to indigent patients. Health Care District CEO Darcy Davis has directed staff to look into PBCHRC's request and we look forward to hearing from the District in the near future. Thanks go to our Health Care District Commission Cory Neering for his assistance on this project.

PBCHRC'S WINTER FÊTE - JANUARY 19, 2019
On Saturday night, January 19, 2019, PBCHRC supporters will gather at the West Palm Beach home of contemporary art collector Jeff Ganek to honor West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio at our annual Winter Fête. Scott Rixford will host a VIP Party in Wellington to honor our Benefactors and Sponsors.

Thanks go out to our Benefactors (as of November 6): James Berwind and Kevin Clark, Bill Bone, Mauricio Busa and Barry Hayes, Daniel S. Hall, The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A., West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James and Lorna James, Wood Kinnard and Alberto Arias, Sidney Lesowitz and Peter Rogers, Paula Ryan for Mayor and Trent Steele.

Thanks also go out to our sponsors (as of November 6): Lee Bell and Fotios Pantazis, Kaci and Andy Bloemers, Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt, David Cohen and Paul Bernabeo, Cornerstone Solutions, Tom Corrigan and Craig Mitchell, Arlen D. Dominek and A. J. Young, Echo, Diane Freany and Sharon Koskoff, Charlie Fredrickson, Gay Polo League, Michael Grattendick and Chip Freeman, Howard Grossman, MD, Tony Jaggi and Don Watren, Michael Judd and Ben Small. Lou Marotta and Mike Fullwood, Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo.
George J. Palladino and Jerrold St. George, Joe Peduzzi for West Palm Beach City Commission, J.P. Sasser, Don Todorich - Corcoran Group R.E, Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney, and A.J. Wasson and Randy Christensen.

Benefactors ($2,500) will receive four tickets to the event and the VIP pre-party. Sponsors ($1,000) will receive two tickets to the event and the VIP pre-party. Individual tickets are $250. 

To become a Benefactor or Sponsor, 
or to purchase individual tickets, 
please visit our Events Page.

For 30 years, 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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Palm Beach County School Board doubles down on policies to protect LGBTQ students

By Sonja Isger, Palm Beach Post staff writer
October 20, 2018
This month, the Palm Beach County School Board amended its policies in not one, but two places, to once again alert its 22,000 employees that the district’s mission includes casting protection and promising equity for students who went for decades unmentioned by name within those pages: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or ‘questioning’ students.
To be clear (as mud?) those five words, commonly boiled down to “LGBTQ,” aren’t always the specific words they used, but the meaning of these policies is certain.
The verbal nod comes at a time when hostility toward these students appears to be on the rise, according to one recent national survey.
“It’s important to have it in policy so the students have something that they can say, ‘It’s in our school district policy that I’m protected and this is a place I’m seen,’ and ‘It’s OK for me to be out in my school and I won’t be hurt or hindered because of that,’ ” said Amanda Cemente, youth service director at Compass, the LGBTQ support center in Lake Worth, who sat for a year on a committee to write one of those chapters in the district’s tomes.
“We’re really excited it’s finally coming out,” Cemente said.
The first reminder of these protections is the district’s updated “Commitment to the Student,” which was approved by the School Board in the first week of October.
That policy affirms that educators will not harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of a long list of characteristics from religion to ethnicity. The list was expanded to cover political beliefs, marital status, linguistic preference and “sexual orientation, gender, gender expression and/or gender identity.”
The second is one that has been in the works for more than a year — the district’s “Equity Policy.”
The Equity Policy’s stated mission is “to show School Board’s commitment to eliminating race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or socioeconomic status as predictors for academic success.”
Early versions stated that teachers throughout the county would include the contributions of African Americans, indigenous people and women to the United States and the world in their lessons. In the past month, at the behest of the board, instruction will also “expand the knowledge, understanding, and awareness of LGBTQ studies and the LGBTQ social movements.”
About 1.3 million kids or roughly 8 percent of all high school students in the nation report being lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Those kids have a rough time at school, with more than 80 percent of LGBTQ students saying they were harassed or assaulted on campus in 2017 — one in six of them reporting they were physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation or gender expression, according to a survey by GLSEN, formerly the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
And it’s not always the kids who are the bullies.
More than half of the students in GLSEN’s survey reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff. Nearly three-quarters said teachers and staff made negative remarks about gender expression.
“We weren’t waiting for policy to protect children,” Deputy Superintendent Keith Oswald said. “We were doing what’s right.”
The first mention in policy of these protections appeared in 2003, when the board adopted a policy to protect students against harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, according to retired Judge Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
Five years later, the state threatened to withhold money from districts that didn’t enact a stand-alone anti-bullying policy. Palm Beach County was among those to go beyond the state’s demands and spell out that protected classes would include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, Hoch said.
Oswald said when flags have been raised by students, administrators have sought solutions on that campus. It’s been a school-by-school approach to making sure “we handle these things appropriately,” things like negotiating which restroom a student should use or calling a student by their chosen name and pronouns.
Still, in a district of more than 180 schools and about 175,000 students, conflicts are bound to arise.
“We had to call on (School Board member) Erica Whitfield to help us with one particular student,” recalled Compass Executive Director Julie Seaver.
A “very bright” high schooler who had gone through years of schools identifying as a male, in name and pronouns that contrast with his official school paperwork was called out by a teacher who refused to use his preferred name, Seaver said.
“So this teacher mispronounced his name in class and when the rest of the students called that teacher out, the teacher began with using ‘s/him”’ and ‘s/her’ and ‘it,’ ” Seaver recalled.
Eventually the student was moved out of the class, and the school intervened with some level of training, Whitfield said, confirming the episode happened at a high school in her district that spans an eastern stretch of the county from Lake Worth Road south to Clint Moore Road in Boca Raton.
“It definitely happens,′ Whitfield said. Her take is that teachers aren’t there to publicly discuss the choice of names and pronouns, and they aren’t there to shame them either.
“It’s the same as having a nickname to me. I want the kids to feel welcome,” Whitfield said, noting that she’s spoken to several students at Compass who have left public schools. “And to me that’s unacceptable.”
Oswald said the district’s guidance counselors have been trained in navigating this changing landscape of gender and gender identity in a way that protects students. Their mission is to share that knowledge on their campus, he said.
“It’s one thing to change policy, it’s another to change minds and hearts,” Oswald said. “These are complicated issues. We can’t push too much too fast.”
But having policy to back it up is imperative, Hoch said.
“You are educating people who work for the school district from principals to those who serve fish sticks in the lunchroom that these kids need to be protected and it is their job to speak out when they see someone being harassed or bullied,” Hoch said. “These are points you can’t emphasize often enough.”

Federal judge to decide whether to block South Florida laws banning youth conversion therapy

Conservative Christian therapists argue the bans violate their free speech rights and religious beliefs

By John Riley, Metro Weekly

October 19, 2018

Photo: Sander van der Wel, via Wikimedia.
A pair of therapists in Florida have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction preventing the Palm Beach County Commission and the city of Boca Raton from enforcing their laws that prohibit therapists from subjecting youth to conversion therapy.
Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton filed a lawsuit back in June alleging that the county and city bans on conversion therapy infringe upon their First Amendment rights to free speech.
Both Otto and Hamilton have argued that the law essentially gags them and prevents them from counseling youth who are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, for fear that they will be fined or even threatened with a loss of their license.
Horatio Mihet, a lawyer with the conservative advocacy group Liberty Counsel who is representing the two therapists, said that an injunction is necessary to remedy the harm caused by the “intrusion” of the local government into his clients’ practices, reports the Palm Beach Post.
Mihet claims that his clients do not engage in extreme measures such as shock therapy, aversion therapy, or inducing nausea or vomiting to dissuade youth from embracing homosexuality or transgenderism.
But he also says the laws tie therapists’ hands and effectively prevent youth who do not want to embrace an LGBTQ identity from being able to seek help.
But attorneys representing Boca Raton and Palm Beach County say the law does not infringe upon the therapists’ rights, and is intended to protect LGBTQ youth from harm and a series of mental health problems — from depression to suicidal ideation — that they can suffer from if subjected to conversion therapy.
Assistant Palm Beach County Attorney Rachel Fahey says there is nothing in the law that prevents therapists like Otto and Hamilton from counseling or providing “talk therapy” to struggling youth.
But the law intends to put clients in the driver’s seat when it comes to achieving the goals they set for themselves.
For instance, therapists should not inject their own personal beliefs or attempt to sway clients away from embracing an LGBTQ identity if the youth wishes to be more comfortable with it. 
“Sexual orientation and gender identity can’t be changed by a licensed provider,” Fahey said, noting that there is scant evidence showing that conversion therapy actually works.
Most major medical and mental health organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Counseling Association, have concluded that conversion therapy is harmful to the mental and emotional well-being of teens who are subjected to it.
Palm Beach County and Boca Raton are among a number of municipalities or counties that have banned conversion therapy on minors in the absence of action by state legislatures. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have already adopted similar laws.
Furthermore, Fahey notes, the county commission was careful to craft the ban to protect therapists’ free speech rights. For example, no mental health practitioner is banned from publicly expressing support for conversion therapy.
A therapist could also refer a client to religious leaders, who are exempt from the law as long as they’re acting as spiritual advisers rather than as licensed therapists. 
Rosenberg has asked attorneys on both sides to submit written arguments before she decides whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction that would go into effect while the case is argued in the courts. She gave no indication when she expects to issue a ruling.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

West Palm Beach Again Earns Top Score in LGBTQ Equality


(West Palm Beach, Florida) The City of West Palm Beach has again earned a perfect score on the sixth annual Human Rights Campaign Foundation Municipal Equality Index (MEI) ranking of cities across the United States. Nationally, 78 cities earned perfect scores.

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and City leadership's public position on equality. The 2018 MEI is the sixth annual edition and rates more than 500 cities from every state in the nation.

"The perfect score demonstrates the clear-cut commitment elected officials in West Palm Beach have made to the LGBTQ community over the past 30 years," said retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC)..

PBCHRC has long been Palm Beach County's most effective civil rights organization. The nonpartisan independent nonprofit is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Over past three decades, PBCHRC has been responsible for the enactment of more than 130 laws and policies providing equal protection, rights and benefits for Palm Beach County's LGBTQ community.

"Our city's inclusive laws and policies attract amazing people to
move to West Palm Beach," said Mayor Jeri Muoio. "West Palm Beach is a wonderful place for LGBTQ people - and others - to live, study, play, work, raise families and retire."

Of the twenty Florida municipalities participating in the MEI, only six (West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Wilton Manors) scored 100 points. 
 
Thanks to Muoio's leadership - along with that of former mayors Jeff Koons,  Nancy Graham and Lois Frankel -- West Palm Beach has long been in the forefront of LGBTQ equality in the State of Florida

In 1990, city commissioners established the West Palm Beach Employment Practices Review Commission to recommend improvements to the city's personnel practices and procedures. Hoch, at the time a labor lawyer who represented the city's municipal workers unions, served as the commission's Chairman Pro Tempore. The blue ribbon panel's final report included recommendations to improve the work environment for the city's lesbian and gay employees. Within months, those recommendations were unanimously adopted by the city commission.

The following year, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment. In 1992, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to provide domestic partnership benefits for municipal employees

City leaders recognized that while the laws and policies had been put into place to help  gay and lesbian municipal employees, action also needed to be taken to address discrimination faced by the city's lesbian and gay residents. Therefore, in 1991, the city commission voted to prohibit the use of any public facilities or any public funding to any entities which had discriminated against members of a variety of protected classes - including gays and lesbians.

In 1994, the city commission enacted the West Palm Beach Equal Opportunity Ordinance, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation. (The ordinance was amended in 2007 to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.)

Weeks after the ordinance was enacted, the local Christian Coalition collected enough signatures to hold a special election to repeal the ordinance.  However, then-Mayor Nancy Graham stepped forward to lead the "'No on 1!" campaign to ensure that the newly enacted gay rights law remained on the books.

After a bitter and divisive campaign, West Palm Beach voters soundly defeated the repeal effort 56% to 44%. This historic effort marked the first time that Florida voters defeated an anti-gay referendum.

Since marriage equality was slow in coming to Florida, during the period when same-sex marriage was prohibited, Mayor Muoio repeatedly championed laws and policies to ensure that gay and lesbian municipal employees with domestic partners received the same benefits and take home pay as married opposite employees were entitled to receive.

Even when faced with federal laws that denied workers with domestic partners benefits granted to married employees, Mayor Muoio found her way to provide them for city employees. She persuaded her colleagues to extend equal health insurance continuation coverage (COBRA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to city employees with domestic partners. She also convinced city commissioners to provide federal tax equity reimbursements for employees insuring their domestic partners, since married employees were exempt from that taxation under federal law.

Mayor Muoio also led the effort to enact the West Palm Beach Equal Benefits Ordinance, which required contractors doing business with the city to provide identical benefits to both married employees and employees with domestic partners.

In 2015, the city commissioners updated the Equal Opportunity Ordinance by expanding the definition of "public accommodations" to prohibit consumer discrimination (e.g., "shopping while black"). The law also prohibits businesses in the wedding industry from discriminating against lesbian and gay couples. 
 
In 2016, West Palm Beach became the first city in Palm Beach County to prohibit the discredited practice of conversion therapy for minors.  Conversion therapy encompasses a range of discredited counseling practices by which health care providers or counselors seek to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression through aversion treatment.   

Just last month, the West Palm Beach adopted an LGBTQ-inclusive resolution affirming its commitment to address and eliminate bullying at city facilities and in city programs. 

Most recently, in a move to address the concerns of transgender and gender-nonconforming residents, Mayor Muoio has directed city staff to install new signage by year's end designating all single-stall restrooms in municipal buildings as "all-gender"
 
When presented with opportunities to amend the state's civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ people, Florida Legislators have repeatedly refused to do so. In contrast, 22 states (and the District of Columbia) protect their residents from employment discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.  Nineteen of these states (and the District of Columbia) also provide similar protections on the basis of their gender identity. 

"Since the Florida Legislature has repeatedly refused to enact LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws, it is imperative that municipal and county leaders throughout our state work diligently to enact local laws and policies providing LGBTQ Floridians with equal protections and benefits," said Hoch. "All LGBTQ Floridians, regardless of where they live or work, should be protected from discrimination and harassment."


Monday, October 1, 2018

West Palm Beach Resolution Takes Aim At Bullying

September 25, 2018

West Palm Beach City Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday aimed at eliminating bullying and harassment in city facilities and at programs the city provides at the Mandel Public Library, as well as at the community centers at Coleman, Gaines, Howard and South Olive Parks.

The resolution was proposed by City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf, following a request by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) - Florida's oldest independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
PBCHRC provided Shoaf with examples of children who were bullied not only because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, but also because of other personal characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, physical appearance, weight, citizenship status, economic status and academic ability.

"One of the most important tasks city officials are charged with is ensuring the safety and well-being of our youngest residents," said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch. "Commissioner Shoaf immediately realized that the city must do more to eliminate bullying."

"Bullying and harassment can interfere with a child's ability to participate in our city's programs and activities," said Shoaf. "All children deserve to be able to play together in an environment that is inclusive and free from bullying."

According to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than 20 percent of students experienced bullying.

In addition to declaring the elimination of bullying as a goal of the city, the resolution also affirms the city's commitment to support local resources aimed at addressing bullying and requires the city's youth programs to have anti-bullying policies.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

MEDIA RELEASE: Human Rights Campaign Announces Endorsement of Lauren Baer for U.S. Congress (FL-18)

For immediate release on September 6, 2018
  
For further information, contact: 

Stephen Peters
(202) 423-2860

Judge Rand Hoch (ret.)
PBCHRC President and Founder
rand-hoch@usa.net
(561) 358-0105

Human Rights Campaign Announces 
Endorsement of Lauren Baer for U.S. Congress (FL-18) 


WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, announced its endorsement of Lauren Baer (D) for U.S. Congress. An out and proud member of the LGBTQ community, Baer is running to replace Rep. Brian Mast (R) to represent the people of Florida's 18th Congressional District.

 
"Lauren Baer is the clear choice for fair-minded voters and is committed to fighting for LGBTQ equality, individual liberty, and the rule of law," said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. "Lauren will stand up each and every day in Congress for all of the hard-working families across her district - from Ft. Pierce to Palm Beach. HRC is proud to endorse Lauren Baer for U.S. Congress."
 
"I am incredibly proud to receive the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that has been on the front lines in the fight for equality for LGBT Americans for decades," said Lauren Baer. "I look forward to working with them in pursuit of our shared goal of a more equal and just society."
 
Lauren Baer was raised in Florida's 18th Congressional District and calls Palm Beach Gardens home with her wife, Emily, and young daughter, Serena. An attorney and foreign policy expert, Lauren served as an official in the Obama Administration from 2011-2017, acting as a senior advisor to two Secretaries of State and to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. During her time in government, she was responsible for ensuring that the promotion of U.S. values remained central to foreign policy and advised on a range of critical national security issues related to human rights and international law. Lauren comes from a family of local business owners who taught her the value of a strong Florida economy and the importance of public service.
 
Across the state of Florida, HRC has identified nearly 700,000 LGBTQ voters and more than 3.2 million "Equality Voters" - meaning they are strong supporters of progressive LGBTQ policies including marriage equality, equitable family law, and laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last year, HRC announced a coast-to-coast campaign to mobilize these voters for the midterm elections called HRC Rising, which represents the largest grassroots expansion in the organization's 38-year history.
 
Tonight, Lauren Baer will also join HRC, Equality Florida, and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance for an event in West Palm Beach to talk about the importance of the race.
 
"Lauren Baer fully understands the problems facing people on the Treasure Coast.  In Washington, Lauren will advocate tirelessly, working for solutions," said Judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. "We are proud to support an out LGBTQ candidate who has included her wife and daughter front and center in her campaign materials. As a pro-family candidate for federal office, Lauren Baer has been an amazing role model.  Imagine how inspirational she will be in Congress."
 
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work, and in every community.
 

### 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

President's Message - Post-Primary Election Update - August 29, 2018


August 29, 2018 

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has interviewed close to one thousand candidates for public office. As a result of our successes in electing LGBTQ-supportive candidates, throughout Palm Beach County it isillegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation. In addition, conversion therapy is banned throughout the county. Moreover, there are now more than 125 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies that provide Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits. A complete list can be found by clicking here and selecting the "Laws & Policies" tab.

Unlike other organizations that just send out questionnaires and make recommendations based on whether and how candidates respond, PBCHRCVA does research and conducts face-to-face interviews with candidates. As shown on the PBCHRC website's "Endorsements" page, 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, and
  • How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBTQ community. 


We use our candidate screening process to educate candidates, make endorsements and take action to elect people who will take steps to change laws and policies to provide equal protection, treatment and benefits for the local LGBTQ community. While the process is time consuming, it gives us the best opportunity to help elect candidates who not only understand and support our issues, but (with the exception of judicial candidates) also will be advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

As part of our mission, we have been working diligently for decades to identify LGBTQ and LGBTQ-supportive residents, get them registered to vote, encourage them to get involved in campaigns, and ensure that they vote in every single election.

This year there have been more PBCHRC-supportive volunteers than ever before participating in our voter identification, early voting, vote-by-mail and get-out-the-vote campaigns. Additionally, a record number of our supporters have been volunteering in more campaigns than ever before. So, it comes as no surprise that LGBTQ and allied voters turned out in record numbers in the August Primary Election.


As a result of these efforts - and your participation - the following candidates endorsed by PBCHRCVA were victorious at the polls yesterday:

Lauren Baer, candidate for U.S. Congress
Congressman Alcee Hastings
Congressman Ted Deutch
Andrew Gillum, candidate for Governor
Sean Shaw, candidate for Attorney General
Nicole "Nikki" Fried, candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture
State Senator Bobby Powell
State Representative David Silvers
State Representative Matt Willhite
State Representative-elect Tina Polsky
James Bonfiglio, candidate for State Representative
Marybel Reinoso Coleman, candidate for Circuit Court Judge
Michael McAuliffe, candidate for Circuit Court Judge
Gregg Weiss, candidate for County Commission
Palm Beach County School Board Member Debra Robinson
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

In addition, it is possible that Andy Thomson, our candidate for Boca Raton City Council, may prevail in the event there is a recount in this extremely close race. 

Many of the PBCHRCVA-endorsed candidates who were victorious yesterday still face opposition in the November 6 General Election. Key offices, including races for the U.S. Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Chief Financial Officer and Commissioner of Agriculture, will be decided on November 6, 2018. Therefore, we must continue our efforts to ensure that the people who are elected to office understand the unique concerns of the LGBTQ community. A complete list of the candidates endorsed by the PBCHRC Voters Alliance - including those whom already have been elected (or re-elected) - can be found by clicking here.

Between now and the General Election, PBCHRCVA will continue to send out information. If you do not receive our e-mails, please go to pbchrc.org, scroll down to "STAY INFORMED. GET THE LATEST NEWS FROM PBCHRC" and sign up.


VOTE-BY-MAIL
If you have not yet signed up to Vote-by-Mail, just click here to apply for your Vote-by-Mail ballot to be delivered to your voting address. It takes less than 5 minutes! You also can call the Office of the Supervisor of Elections at (561) 656-6200 to request a Vote-by-Mail ballot. Please remember to request for "All As Permitted." If you want your ballot sent to an address other than your registration address, you will need to complete a written application with a signature. Click here for the Supervisor of Elections website. 

CONVERSION THERAPY BANS 
BEING CHALLENGED IN FEDERAL COURT
The Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, has filed suit in federal court against Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton, seeking to nullify their bans on conversion therapy for minors. The lawsuit is virtually identical to the one the Liberty Counsel filed last December against the City of Tampa. Similar lawsuits have been filed for years, and not one has succeeded in overturning a conversion therapy ban. In fact, on four occasions , the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear cases challenging the bans. However, as the Supreme Court turns further and further to the right on social issues, the Liberty Counsel is seeking another chance to allow therapists to abuse LGBTQ children through conversion therapy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, two of PBCHRC's allies who were instrumental in our efforts to enact the eight conversion therapy bans in Palm Beach County, will be filing a "friend of the court" brief in the lawsuit to assistPalm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton in their defense of this lawsuit.

As it takes a long time for these cases to work their way through the federal courts, it would be unusual for anything significant to happen in the near future. But rest assured, PBCHRC will keep you informed as legal developments occur in the case.


SAVE THE DATE  - JANUARY 19, 2019
FOR PBCHRC'S WINTER FÊTE

On Saturday night, January 19, 2019, PBCHRC supporters will gather at the West Palm Beach home of contemporary art collector Jeff Ganek to honor West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio at our annual Winter Fête. Sponsorships, which include a pair of tickets and invitations to a VIP pre-party are $2,500. Individual tickets are $250. More details will be provided in the upcoming months. To become a sponsor or to purchase tickets, click here.


RECENT INITIATIVES
At PBCHRC's request: 

The City of West Palm Beach will be installing LGBTQ Pride Rainbow Crosswalks at a location to be determined.

The Ocean Ridge Town Council is in the process of finalizing the language for an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination throughout the town.

The City of West Palm Beach is implementing a citywide requirement for equal access to sex-segregated facilities. 

City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf is working with the West Palm Beach municipal staff to implement an anti-bullying program.

City Commissioner Christina Lambert is working to secure annual funding from the City of West Palm Beach for initiatives to assist LGBTQ seniors.

For 30 years, 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



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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

President's Message - August 5, 2018

August 5, 2018

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) has worked diligently to elect LGBTQ-supportive candidates for public office. For three decades, we have worked with these public officials to enact laws, ordinances and policies to provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the LGBTQ community.

On August 28, Florida voters will select candidates for federal, state and local offices. For the past several months, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has been interviewing and endorsing candidates, registering new voters, encouraging early voting and voting-by mail, and doing everything possible to ensure that LGBTQ voters turn out in record numbers in support of our endorsed candidates.

We often are asked just how we select the candidates we endorse. Unlike other organizations that just send out questionnaires and make recommendations based on whether and how candidates respond, PBCHRCVA does research and holds face-to-face interviews with candidates. While the process is time consuming, it gives us the best opportunity to make endorsement decisions and to help elect candidates who not only understand and support our issues, but (with the exception of judicial candidates) also will be advocates on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Thanks go out to PBCHRC Secretary Rae Franks for her work on coordinating the candidate interviews.

 

As shown on the PBCHRC website's "Endorsements" page, 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, and 
  • How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBTQ community. 
 
All Palm Beach County residents who are registered to vote as of July 30 are eligible to vote in the August 28 primary election; however, not all of the candidates we have endorsed will appear on your individual ballot. 

Vote-by-Mail


If you have signed up to Vote-by-Mail, your ballot for the August 28 primary elections will be arriving soon - if it has not yet arrived. If you have a standing request to Vote-by-Mail and you have not received your ballot, please call the Office of the Supervisor of Elections at (561) 656-6200.

If you have not yet signed up to Vote-by-Mail, it's not too late!  You can sign up to receive a ballot in the mail at any time up to 5:00 p.m. August 22.  You also can go one of the Supervisor's offices to request (and even fill out a ballot) through August 28

Signing up to Vote-by-Mail is easy. Click here. And  you can quickly apply for your Vote-by-Mail ballot to be delivered to your voting address. It takes less than 5 minutes!  You can also call the Office of the Supervisor of Elections at (561) 656-6200 to request a Vote-by-Mail ballot.  Please remember to request for "All As Permitted." If you want your ballot sent to an address other than your registration address, you will need to complete a written application with a signature. Click herefor the Supervisor of Elections website. 
 
Be sure to sign and date your Vote-by-Mail ballot return envelope!  Return postage in Palm Beach County is $1.21 (or just use 3 First Class/Forever stamps).  Instead, you may hand-deliver your ballot to any of the Supervisor's offices. (For locations, click here. Ballots MUST be received by 5:00 p.m. August 28


Early Voting starts Monday, August 13 

Palm Beach County has 15 early voting sites, open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. starting Monday, August 13 through Sunday, August 26.  Any Palm Beach County  resident who has registered to vote by July 30 registered PBC voter may vote at any of the Early Voting sites.  To see a list of the of the Early Voting sites, click here.

Between now and the November 4 General Election, PBCHRCVA will continue to send out information.  If you do not receive our e-mails, please go to pbchrc.org, scroll down to "STAY INFORMED - GET THE LATEST NEWS FROM PBCHRC" and sign up.

Your votes do make a difference!


PBCHRC'S 30th ANNIVERSARY SUMMER SOIRÉE

On August 4, more than 230 PBCHRC supporters partied the night away at our biennial Summer Soirée, which was held at the National Croquet Club. Thanks to the generosity of our underwriters, every dollar raised from individual ticket sales will go to support PBCHRC initiatives and projects.  

Special thanks go out to Sandy James Fine Food & Productions,  the National Croquet Club and Sutka Visual Design for making the evening magical.

The 2018 Summer Soirée underwriters are:

James Berwind and Kevin Clark
Kaci and Andy Bloemers
Bill Bone
Ocean Ridge Mayor James Bonfiglio
Mauricio Busa and Barry Hayes
David Cohen and Paul Bernabeo
Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt
Cornerstone Solutions
Palm Beach Town Council Member Lew Crampton
Bill Eberhardt
Congressman Mark Foley
Charlie Fredrickson
Michael Grattendick and Chip Freeman
Howard Grossman, MD
Daniel S. Hall
The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A.
Tony Jaggi and Don Watren
West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James andLorna Anderson
Ken Keffer Catering
Wood Kinnard and Alberto Arias
Wayne Lewis
Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo
Mittleman Eye (Michael Fowler and David Mittleman)
National Croquet Club
Senator Bobby Powell
Scott Robertson and James Swope
West Palm Beach City Commissioner Paula Ryan
Sandy James Fine Food & Productions 
Arthur T. Schofield, P.A.
Trent Steele
Sutka Visual Design
Don Todorich - Corcoran Group R.E
Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney
AJ Wasson and Randy Christensen
Gregg and Rebecca Weiss
Fred Zrinscak

Thanks also go out to PBCHRC volunteers Alex Heathcock, Steven Licari, Ben Siegel and Tom Valeo, who checked people into the event.


CONVERSION THERAPY BANS 
BEING CHALLENGED IN FEDERAL COURT

 

The Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, has filed suit in federal court against Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton, seeking to nullify their bans on conversion therapy for minors.  The lawsuit is virtually identical to the one the Liberty Counsel filed last December against the City of Tampa. Similar lawsuits have been filed for years, and not one has succeeded in overturning a conversion therapy ban. In fact, on four occasions , the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear cases challenging the bans.  However, as the Supreme Court turns further and further to the right on social issues, the Liberty Counsel is seeking another chance to allow therapists to abuse LGBTQ children through conversion therapy.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, two of PBCHRC's allies who were instrumental in our efforts to enact the eight conversion therapy bans in Palm Beach County, will be filing a "friend of the court" brief in the lawsuit to assist Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton in their defense of this lawsuit.

As it takes a long time for these cases to work their way through the federal courts, it would be unusual for anything significant to happen in the near future.  But rest assured, PBCHRC will keep you informed as legal developments occur in the case.


RECENT INITIATIVES

At PBCHRC's request: 
  • Last month, the Royal Palm Beach Village Counsel adopted an LGBT-inclusive civil rights resolution.
  • The Ocean Ridge Town Council is in the process of finalizing the language for an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination throughout the town.
  • The City of West Palm Beach is implementing a citywide requirement for equal access to sex-segregated facilities. 
  • City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf is working with the West Palm Beach municipal staff to implement an anti-bullying program.
  • City Commissioner Christina Lambert is working to secure annual funding from the City of West Palm Beach for initiatives to assist LGBTQ seniors.
Finally, having accepted a new position as director of development for a hospital in Broward County, PBCHRC Board Member Marcie Hall has tendered her resignation,so that she may devote her full attention to her new job. Marcie was instrumental in having the City of Delray Beach enact both an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance and a ban on conversion therapy. We wish Marcie the best in her new career!

For 30 years, 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