Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Westlake, Florida's fastest growing city, to become the Sunshine State's first municipality to enact LGBTQ protections at a virtual meeting

May 12, 2020

At last night's meeting, the Westlake City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance. When the law takes effect, discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, as well as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, familial status, pregnancy, marital status, or genetic information, will be prohibited in Westlake. 

Westlake, Palm Beach County's newest and smallest city, has 531 registered voters and approximately 400 homes. However,plans call for 4,500 homes, 2 million square feet of commercial space, a private sports academy and day school, a grocery store, and a hospital. According to U.S. Census figures, Westlake is now the fastest growing city in Florida.

While thirty municipalities in Florida already have LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws, Westlake will be the first municipality in Florida to protect LGBTQ people, women and minorities virtually, using Webex

The LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinance was proposed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) as part of the organization's "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign.

PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Over the years, PBCHRC has been responsible for the implementation of more than 140 laws and policies providing equal protections, rights and benefits for the LGBTQ community.

"The U.S. Congress and the Florida
Legislature have failed to enact any civil rights laws protecting gay, lesbian and gender nonconforming individuals," said PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch. "Therefore, the responsibility to prohibit discrimination rests on the elected officials in Florida's counties and municipalities."

"PBCHRC's 'Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!' campaign encourages municipalities to enact LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws," PBCHRC Board Member Tamara Sager told City Council Members via Webex. "Your ordinance will educate Westgate residents and business owners of their civil rights and responsibilities."

"While our country is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, Westlake City Council Members found no reason to delay moving forward with the civil rights ordiance," said Sager. "That shows true leadership."

"The enactment of the Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance will help attract more homeowners to our city," said Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson, who introduced the ordinance at tonight's meeting. "In addition, the ordinance will help bring jobs, revenue and resources to Westlake."

PBCHRC's campaign has encouaged public officials in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth Beach, Ocean Ridge, Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach and Wellington to enact local LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws   . 

Similar ordinances are under consideration by the Haverhill Town Council and the North Palm Beach Village Council. 
Although Florida has sixty-seven counties, only twelve - Alachua, Broward, Duval,  Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Volusia Counties - have LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances.

Westlake will join thirty other Florida municipalities - Atlantic Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Dunedin, Fernandina Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville,  Greenacres, Gulfport, Jacksonville, Key West, Lake Worth Beach, Leesburg, Mascotte, Miami, Miami Beach, Mount Dora, North Port, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pembroke Pines, St. Augustine Beach, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Tallahassee, Tampa, Venice, Wellington, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors - that have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive municipal civil rights ordinances.

"Sadly, 55 counties and 381 municipalities in Florida have no laws protecting LGBTQ Floridians from discrimination," said Hoch. "A great deal of work on civil rights remains to be done in the Sunshine State."

The Westlake Civil Rights Ordinance is set to take effect on June 11, 2020, following final reading of the ordinance,

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