Thursday, September 17, 2020

Riviera Beach Enacts LGBTQ-Inclusive Civil Rights Ordinance

 At the October 7, 2020 meeting, the Riviera Beach City Council gave initial approval by unanimous vote to enact the Riviera Beach Civil Rights Ordinance. The ordinance went into effect immediately.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, as well as on race, color, military status, religion, sex, national origin, age, citizenship, disability, familial status, pregnancy, marital status, and genetic information throughout the city.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Riviera Beach is home to more than 35,000 residents. Seventy percent of the residents are Black and close to twenty percent are foreign born. 

Douglas Lawson, City Council Chair Pro Tem, introduced the ordinance at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council  Council (PBCHRC) -- Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

"Although, our nation has made strides at eradicating racism and discrimination, we must continue to shape our nation's definition of, and access to, equality at the federal, state, and local levels," said Lawson. "Understanding that diversity matters strengthens our communities to ensure that women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other minorities can attain the American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"PBCHRC stands together with Black Lives Matter, which has always put LGBTQ voices at the center of the conversation," PBCHRC Board Member Jasmin Lewis told City Councilmembers. "However, we acknowledge that while our work has benefitted both the LGBTQ and Black residents of Riviera Beach, as an organization, PBCHRC has not done enough to align our missions with work for racial justice. Today, we publicly state our support in a unified way."

Over the years, PBCHRC's "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign has encouraged elected officials in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Haverhill, Lake Worth Beach, North Palm Beach, Ocean Ridge, Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Wellington, and Westlake to enact LGBTQ-inclusive municipal civil rights laws.

Another LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights law is set to take effect in the Town of Juno Beach following Final Reading on September 23.

"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 PBCHRC President and Founder Rand Hoch. "Therefore, until Congress or the Florida Legislature takes action, we must rely on local officials to fully protect LGBTQ people from discrimination."

Out of 411 cities, towns and villages in Florida, only 37 have enacted LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances.

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