Thursday, August 27, 2020

After Five-Year Campaign, Haverhill Set To Enact LGBTQ-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance

 August 28, 2020

After a campaign that lasted more than five years, the Haverhill Town Council gave initial approval this evening to the Civil Rights Act of the Town of Haverhill. The ordinance will go into effect upon Final Reading on September 10.

The Civil Rights Act of the Town of Haverhill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, as well as on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, familial status, pregnancy, marital status, and genetic information throughout the town.

In 2015, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) launched our "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign to encourage elected officials to enact LGBTQ-inclusive municipal civil rights laws. 

PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

By mid-year, LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights laws were enacted in the cities of Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Delray Beach, and the Village of Wellington.

That summer, thirty-eight year Haverhill resident  Charlie Fredrickson, an openly gay man, approacched PBCHRC for help getting the Haverhill Town Council to enact an LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinance.

"There is no reason why a small town like Haverhill should not have a civil rights law that protects everyone in the town," Fredickson told PBCHRC President and Rand Hoch.

On July 23, 2015, PBCHRC sent a memorandum to Haverhill's Mayor and Town Council Members, asking them to enact a civil rights ordinance similar to the ones enacted earlier that year by the other Palm Beach County municipalities.  
However, only Lawrence Gordon -- the sole Black member of the Town Council -- supported the ordinance.

Undeterred, Fredrickson and Hoch appealled in person to the Town Council. However, the Town Council -- over Gordon's objection -- adopted an anti-discrimination resolution instead.

"While the resolution is a nice, symbolic gesture, it doesn't really do anything," Hoch told Town Council Members. "We'll be back."

In the years that followed, the climate for municipal civil rights ordinances in Haverhill and throughout Palm Beach County changed.
  • Haverhill, with a population of 2,300 residents, became a majority-minority municipality with more than half of the residents being non-White.
  • In consecutive elections, Haverhill voters elected two openly gay men to the Town Council.
  • LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances were enacted in Lake Worth Beach, North Palm Beach, Ocean Ridge, and Westlake.
Following his election last spring, openly gay Town Council Member Ray Caranci asked his colleagues to reconsider enacting an LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinance.

"We need a comprehensive civil rights ordinance to inform our residents that the Town of Haverhill values our diversity and protects the rights of all minorities," said Caranci. "The ordinance is necessary to direct our residents where to go for help if they feel their civil rights have been violated."

"Now, more than ever, civil rights laws truly make a difference," said Town Council Member Gordon.

"While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited nationwide, there are no federal or statewide laws in effect in Florida which protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and public accommodations," said Hoch. "Therefore, until Congress or the Florida Legislature takes action, we must rely on local officials to fully protect LGBTQ people from discrimination."

PBCHRC is also working with the City of Riviera Beach and the Town of Juno Beach to enact LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances in the upcoming weeks.

Out of 411 cities, towns and villages in Florida, only 32 have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances..

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