Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PBCHRC Asks Governor-Elect Rick Scott To Issue An Executive Order Prohibiting GLBT Discrimination in State Government

December 6, 2010

Governor-elect Rick Scott
The Scott Transition Team
300 S.E. 2nd Street
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301

Re: Executive Order on Equal Opportunity in State Employment

Dear Governor-elect Scott:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (“the Council”), I am writing to request that your first executive order address equal opportunity in state employment.

By doing so on the day you take office, you will assure all Floridians that the State of Florida is committed to providing equal employment opportunity in state government to all qualified individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, pregnancy or marital status.

Over the years, similar directives have been issued by the governors at least 30 states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Enclosed please find a draft which your staff may want to utilize as a model.

If your staff has any questions or needs more information, please feel free to contact me directly.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a successful administration.

Respectfully yours,

Judge Rand Hoch (retired)
President and Founder

copies w/out enclosure to: Board of Directors, PBCHRC



WHEREAS, this nation and state were founded on the principle of freedom and equality;

WHEREAS, Congress enacted the landmark Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making equal employment opportunity without discrimination the law of the land; and

WHEREAS, the 1972 amendment to the Civil Rights Act extended these provisions to all governmental agencies; and

WHEREAS, numerous federal and state laws, regulations and executive orders prohibit discrimination in employment against any person based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, pregnancy or marital status in Florida’s civil service system; and

WHEREAS, the Florida labor force is comprised of skilled and talented workers from all segments of the state's richly diverse population, enabling the state to lead the nation in innovation; and

WHEREAS, this work force diversity is of great value in building a more inclusive and qualified state civil service whose highest principle is duty to an equally diverse public; and

WHEREAS, this administration is strongly committed to ensuring equality of employment opportunity in all aspects of employment where every person can enjoy to their fullest capability the birthrights of our democracy.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK SCOTT, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the laws and Constitution of the State of Florida, do hereby promulgate the following Executive Order effective to January 4, 2011.

Section 1.
Equal employment opportunity for all individuals is the policy of the State of Florida in all its activities. All state officials, managers and supervisors shall vigorously enforce this policy.

Section 2.
All state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions shall recruit, appoint, train, evaluate and promote state personnel on the basis of merit and fitness, without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, pregnancy or marital status or other non-job-related factors.

Section 3.
All state agencies, departments, boards and commissions shall have clear, written directives to carry out this policy and to guarantee equal employment opportunity, without retaliation or reprisal, at all levels of state government.

Section 4.
All state agencies, departments, boards and commissions shall regularly review their employment practices to ensure equality of opportunity in employment. Such actions include the use of inclusive recruitment, properly validated selection procedures and the elimination of non job-related and discriminatory practices.

Section 5.
All state agencies, departments, boards and commissions shall fully comply with all constitutional and civil service statutory and regulatory requirements to administer and enforce this policy.

Section 6.
The Department of Management Services shall provide statewide leadership, coordination, technical guidance and enforcement regarding efforts to fully achieve equal employment opportunity and non-discriminatory employment practices within the state civil service.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Florida to be affixed, at Tallahassee, the Capitol, this 4th day of January, 2011.



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your Vote Counted!

While many voters across our nation opted to sit out this election, Palm Beach County's LGBT voters — and our allies — responded overwhelmingly to the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance voter identification, voter education, early voting, absentee ballot and get-out-the-vote campaigns. As a result, 19 of the endorsed local candidates were elected or re-elected.

These LGBT-supportive public officials include U.S. Congressmen Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, State Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, State Representatives Mack Bernard, Joseph Abruzzo, Mark Pafford, Jeff Clemens and Irv Slosberg, County Commissioners Paulette Burdick, Jess Santamaria and Priscilla Taylor, Port Commissioner Blair Ciklin, School Board Members Debra Robinson, Jennifer Prior Brown and Marcia Andrews, Circuit Court Judge Lisa Small, County Court Judge Marni Bryson and Lake Worth City Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill.

Congratulations to all of these individuals – and rest assured, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council will be in touch!

Thanks go out to the volunteers on the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance who spent countless hours screening and interviewing candidates over the past six months – as well as to all of our supporters who worked tirelessly on the various campaigns.

On behalf of the Council's Board of Directors, thank you once again for your participation in the electoral process.

With the election behind us — and not another one on the horizon for several months — the Council will now refocus our work towards ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation, and community outreach.

For more than a decade, Florida Atlantic University professors Alan Barsky and Fred Fejes (among others) have been seeking to have the school's nondiscrimination policies specifically prohibit discrimination based sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. In addition, they have been asking FAU to provide domestic partner benefits for FAU employees. The Council was called in to assist in these efforts in 2006.

Dr. Barsky reports that progress is now being made at FAU under the leadership of recently inaugurated President Mary Jane Saunders. We are very optimistic that the nondiscrimination policies will soon be updated. With regard to domestic partnership benefits, FAU currently is exploring models used by University of Florida, Florida International University and other state universities.

The Council also is working with the Village of Wellington, the Town of Palm Beach and the City of Palm Beach Gardens on extending the full range of domestic partnership benefits for their employees.

As always, we will keep you informed of our progress.

Rand Hoch
President and Founder

P.S. If you are on Facebook, please join the more than 1,850 people who have become fans of “PBCHRC”.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance Endorsements for the November 2 General Election

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance is dedicated to electing public officials who will work towards ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

NOTE: Not all of the candidates listed below will appear on your ballot. In addition, in some races, there are no endorsements.

United States Senator
Kendrick Meek (Dem.)

U.S. Representative, District 19
Ted Deutch (Dem.)

U.S. Representative, District 22
Ron Klein (Dem.)

U.S. Representative, District 23
Alcee Hastings (Dem.)

Alex Sink (Dem.)

Attorney General
Dan Gelber (Dem.)

Chief Financial Officer
Jeff Atwater (Rep.)

Commissioner of Agriculture
Scott Maddox (Dem.)

State Senator, District 25
Kelly Skidmore (Dem.)

State Senator, District 27
Kevin Rader (Dem.)

State Representative, District 83
Mark Marciano (Dem.)

State Representative, District 84
Mack Bernard (Dem.)

State Representative, District 85
Joseph Abruzzo (Dem.)

State Representative, District 87
Hava Holzhauer (Dem.)

State Representative, District 88
Mark Pafford (Dem.)

State Representative, District 89
Jeff Clemens (Dem.)

State Representative, District 90
Irving "Irv" Slosberg(Dem.)

State Representative, District 91
Barbara Ann Stern (Dem.)

County Commission, District 2
Paulette Burdick (Dem.)

County Commission, District 6
Jess Santamaria (Dem.)

County Commission, District 7
Priscilla Taylor(Dem.)

Port of Palm Beach, Group 4
Blair Ciklin (Dem.)

School Board, District 3
William G. "Bill" Graham

School Board, District 4
Jennifer Prior Brown

School Board, District 6
Marcia Andrews

County Court Judge, Group 7
Marni A. Bryson

Lake Worth City Commission, District 2
Carla Blockson

Lake Worth City Commission, District 4
Lisa Maxwell
Suzanne Mulvehill

Palm Beach Gardens City Council, Group 5
Ken Menard

Constitutional Amendment 5 - Legislative Redistricting

Constitutional Amendment 6 - Congressional Redistricting

To locate your polling place, call (561) 656-6200

This paid political advertisement, which is independent of any candidate or committee, is produced, sponsored and paid for by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance.

The endorsements have been approved individually by each of the listed candidates.

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance
Post Office Box 267, West Palm Beach, Florida 33402
(561) 586-0203

Monday, August 30, 2010


August 29, 2010

Within hours of yesterday's e-mail blast by PBCHRC on comments made by Florida Governor Charlie Crist on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley on Sunday, August 29, 2010, we received the following e-mail from Danny Kanner, the Crist campaign press secretary:

Below is a statement from Governor Crist regarding emails and statements that have been circulating today. Please feel free to contact the campaign for further questions.

Thank you,

Danny Kanner
Press Secretary
Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate

"In an interview that aired today, I was not discussing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage, which I do not support, but rather reaffirming my position regarding Florida's constitutional ban that I articulated while running for Governor. In fact, the interviewer's question reflected just that. I am fully supportive of civil unions and will continue to be as a United States Senator, but believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman."


A transcript of the questions asked by CNN Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry and the answers given by Florida Governor Charlie Crist on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley on Sunday, August 29, 2010 is set forth below:


HENRY: Another big issue, same-sex marriage. Many conservatives like Marco Rubio support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But this week, the former Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman came out and said he's gay and he called on conservatives to kind of move to the political center and be more tolerant on this issue. You have previously said in your gubernatorial campaign, you supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Now that you're trying to occupy the political center, are you still in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage?

CRIST: I feel the same way, yes, because I feel that marriage is a sacred institution, if you will.But I do believe in tolerance. I'm a live and let live kind of guy, and while I feel that way about marriage, I think if partners want to have the opportunity to live together, I don't have a problem with that.

And I think that's where most of America is. So I think that you know, you have to speak from the heart about these issues. They are very personal. They have a significant impact on an awful lot of people and the less the government is telling people what to do, the better off we're all going to be. But when it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution. I believe it is between a man and woman, but partners living together, I don't have a problem with.

HENRY: But governor, doesn't it sounds like you having it both ways by saying live and let live, but I also support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. If it's live and let live, why would you ban same-sex marriage?

CRIST: Well, everything is in a matter of degree, Ed, and when it becomes to the institution of marriage, I believe that it is between a man and a woman, it's just how I feel.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


Crist supports gay marriage ban
August 29, 2010

Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), two of Florida's three Senate hopefuls sat down for separate interviews on the CNN's State of the Union show, which was aired earlier today.

Crist said that he favors a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

"When it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution, I believe it is between a man and a woman," Crist said, "but partners living together, you know, I don't have a problem with it."

"It's just how I feel," he added.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance Endorsements (as of 8/4/10)

U.S. Senator, Jeff Greene (D)

U.S. Congressman, District 16 - Ed Tautiva (D)
U.S. Congressman, District 19 - Ted Deutch (D)
U.S. Congressman, District 22 - Ron Klein (D)
U.S. Congressman, District 23 - Alcee Hastings (D)

Governor - Alex Sink (D)

Attorney General - Co-Endorsement
Dave Aronberg (D) and Dan Gelber (D)

Chief Financial Officer - Jeff Atwater (R)

Commissioner of Agriculture - Scott Maddox (D)

State Senator, District 25 - Ellyn Bogdanoff (R) - Primary Only
State Senator, District 27 - Sharon Merchant (R) - Primary Only
State Senator, District 27 - Kevin Rader (D) - Primary Only

State Representative, District 83 - Mark Marciano (D)
State Representative, District 84 - Mack Bernard (D)
State Representative, District 85 - Joseph Abruzzo (D)
State Representative, District 86 - Carole Kaye (D)
State Representative, District 88 - Mark S. Pafford (D)
State Representative, District 89 - Jeff Clemens (D)
State Representative, District 90 - Irving "Irv" Slosberg (D)

County Commissioner, District 2 - Paulette Burdick (D)
County Commissioner, District 6 - Michael E. Jackson (D)
County Commissioner, District 7 - Priscilla Taylor (D)

Port of Palm Beach Commission, Group 4 - Blair Ciklin (D)

School Board Member, District 3 - Co-Endorsement
William G. "Bill" Graham and Tom Whatley

School Board Member, District 4 - Co-Endorsement
Jennifer Prior Brown and John E. McGovern

School Board Member, District 6 - Marcia Andrews

School Board Member, District 7 - Debra L. Robinson

Circuit Court Judge, Group 33 - Lisa Small

County Court Judge, Group 7 - Marni A. Bryson

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


June 30, 2010

(Wellington, Florida) The Village of Wellington (pop. 55,584) has amended its Equal Employment Opportunity policy to prohibit discrimination based on both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" in Village employment. The policy covers the Village's 258 employees.

The action was taken following a request from the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"People should not be fired, harassed, or denied promotion simply because they are gay or lesbian, or because they don't fit the stereotypes for masculinity or femininity," said Council President Rand Hoch.

Last spring, Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington played host to the world's first international gay polo league tournament, which was presented by the Gay Polo League.

"The Gay Polo League's selection of Wellington encouraged the Council to ask the Village to adopt a more inclusive Equal Employment Opportunity policy and to provide family benefits to employees with domestic partners," said Hoch. "Wellington's equestrian community came out in support of the tournament - and in support of our requests."

As a result, Wellington's revised Equal Employment Opportunity Policy now provides, "Wellington's employment practices are without regard to race, color, creed. religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, medical condition, age, marital status, familial status, veteran's status, or any other characteristic protected under federal, state, or local law in all personnel and employment actions and in all terms and conditions of employment."

"The workplace is an ever changing environment and it our goal to do the right thing by all of the people who work for Wellington," said Village Manager Paul Schofield. "These changes are a simple recognition that the only thing that should matter in the work place is how well you do your job."

Wellington is also considering offering health insurance coverage and other family benefits to Village employees with domestic partners, according Schofield.

"In Florida, no place is more welcoming to gay employees than Palm Beach County. More than sixty percent of Palm Beach County's cities, towns and villages now have gay- inclusive nondiscrimination policies," said Hoch. "In addition, two openly gay men and one lesbian currently serve as mayors of Palm Beach County municipalities, and the city manager of another city is transsexual."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Openly gay candidates finding success in South Florida

by Anthony Man
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

As a young woman, Betty James never imagined gays and lesbians exercising political clout. Seeing openly gay men and women elected to office seemed even more far-fetched.

Now, at age 82, James is living proof of a dramatic change in American attitudes. An out-of-the-closet lesbian, James is the mayor of Cloud Lake in Palm Beach County.

How much have things changed since James started voting almost six decades ago? Cloud Lake, population 170, where James lives with her partner, is the kind of place where pretty much everyone knows her story.

“It didn’t hurt my candidacy at all,” she said. In the 2008 election, she won 82.5 percent of the vote.

James is among an estimated 20 to 25 openly gay and lesbian elected officials in Florida, all at the local and county level. Getting a count that high means casting a wide net, including an openly gay commissioner of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

Gay activists and political analysts think their ranks could swell with this year’s elections. By the time candidates finished qualifying for office Friday, there were openly gay candidates in South Florida running for the state House, state Senate and Congress. There’s also a transgender congressional candidate.

“By Florida standards, there’s been an explosion of gay candidates and activity and openly gay elected officials,” said Eric Johnson, who was chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

Johnson, now a political consultant in Fort Lauderdale and Washington, D.C., said Florida could elect its first openly gay state legislator or member of Congress this year.

“The likelihood of adding gay elected officials in 2010 is quite high. It seems to me that we’ve turned a little corner in Florida as it relates to openly gay candidates seeking office and being seen as legitimate candidates,” he said.

It’s part of a broader change, said Hastings Wyman, who founded the newsletter Southern Political Report more than three decades ago.

“It’s been dramatic,” Wyman said. “The whole region has become much more accepting. Virtually every southern state now has one or more openly gay elected officials. I think Mississippi is the only holdout. When I first started writing, the only gay official in the South was the mayor of Key West.”

On Sunday, several of South Florida’s openly gay elected officials – and even more candidates – are planning to rally supporters in the gay community by marching in the annual Stonewall Street Festival gay pride parade. It’s held in Wilton Manors, where a majority of the City Commission is openly gay.

Among them is Donna Milo, one of three Republicans seeking her party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. Milo is transgender. She was raised as a male and is now a woman.

“It’s an element of my life. It doesn’t define my values, my goals, my political ambitions, my conservative positions. It’s simply an element of my life and doesn’t define who I am,” Milo said.
Benjamin Lewis, president of the gay political group Sunshine Republicans, said Milo has been changing attitudes on the campaign trail.

He said he’s been to events at which people initially judge Milo unfavorably because she’s transgender. After hearing her speak, “people are standing back and saying, ‘Wow, this woman knows what she’s talking about.’”

Also marching in the parade is Broward’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official, County Commissioner Ken Keechl, who is currently serving his turn as county mayor and running for re-election.

A measure of the significance of the gay community’s political clout: Keechl’s challenger, former Broward Republican Chairman Chip LaMarca, is among the straight political candidates planning to march in the parade. Other straight participants include Republican Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink.

One reason they feel comfortable marching in a gay pride parade is candidates have more to gain by appealing to gay and lesbian voters, than they fear losing by alienating straight voters who are hostile to gays. Rand Hoch, who helped found the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council in 1988, said there’s been a big change in the last 22 years.

“Back then, we had people who were running for office who didn’t want to be seen talking to us. We had people who said, ‘I want your support but I don’t want it publicly,’” he said. Now, he said, people seek out council leaders to find out when they’ll conduct endorsement interviews.
Still, there are limits for openly gay candidates. Florida has never elected an openly gay state senator or state representative.

One big reason, Wyman said, is the shape of legislative districts. “It has a lot to do with whether or not there legislative districts that are drawn so that they include a large gay community within a larger liberal electorate. If you’ve got one of those and you’ve got an open seat, then I think a gay candidate stands a good chance. If you don’t, I think it’s much less likely.”

Wyman said hurdles remain high, “especially in the South. I think people are far less anti-gay than they used to be, but the prejudice is still there.”

Still, each said it’s important to have openly gay officials helping make decisions.

Resnick just finished a year as president of the Broward League of Cities, where he brought forward resolutions that put the group representing the county’s municipal governments on record in support of overturning Florida’s ban on gay men and lesbians adopting children and adding sexual orientation to the state law banning discrimination in employment.

“I was in a position to get Broward County’s cities on board with supporting changes in legislation that have been discriminatory for years,” he said. “I don’t think it would have been on anybody’s radar.”

Successful candidates – James, Keechl and Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick – said they didn’t run as gay activists. Instead, they emphasized issues important to all constituents, because gay-related issues aren’t the most important aspect of their jobs.

Resnick has been in elected office since 1998, when he joined the the Wilton Manors commission. Since then, he said, “it’s more and more becoming a non-issue.”

Jack Majeske, former president of the Broward Log Cabin Republicans gay political group, said that’s an especially common view among voters in their 40s and younger. Many simply don’t care if a candidate is gay. And as older voters who do care pass away, he said, the voters who see it as a non-issue will grow into a majority.

“It’s a non-issue with young people,” Majeske said. “The older, die-hard group, they’ll all die out.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Congressman Ron Klein's Letter on the Vote to Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell

May 28, 2010

Dear Rand,

As you may know, the House of Representatives voted last night to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which has banned gay service members from serving in the military. On this historic day, I wanted to share with you some thoughts about why I voted to repeal the ban.

After September 11th, a dangerous strain threatened the readiness of the members of our armed forces. Serving more tours for longer periods of time puts stress on the war fighter and the families of military personnel. At the same time, in the past five years, the military has discharged almost 800 mission-critical troops, notably Arabic and Farsi linguists needed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Allowing gay people to serve in the military would help alleviate this strain by making more people eligible to serve. Choosing the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy over our military readiness harms our national security and the safety of our men and women in battle.

The argument supporting the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was underscored earlier this year by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "...it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."

As you may know, the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to set in motion the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" passed tonight with bipartisan support. The amendment calls for the repeal of this policy after the Pentagon completes its Comprehensive Review Working Group on how to implement the repeal. This Review is due December 1, 2010. The amendment also requires a certification by the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and President that repeal is consistent with military readiness, military effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting.

As our country experiences economic challenges, and the government deficit has become dangerously high, the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy costs the government precious resources. After receiving extensive training from the military, we should not be forcing gay service members to leave the military. Experts believe that banning gay service has cost the U.S. government $1.3 billion since 1980 and that every discharge of gay service member could cost between $10,000 and $37,000.

Finally, and most importantly, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the right thing to do. It is well past time to abolish discrimination against gay Americans. Anyone who wishes to serve our country deserves to do so; and our country deserves to have a force that is ready and secure.

I am proud to have voted to end this unfair discrimination. Of course, I will keep you updated as we move forward in this process. If you have any questions or if I can be of assistance to you, please call my office at 561-544-6910 or e-mail me through my website: www.klein.house.gov.


Ron Klein
Member of Congress

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

US Senator Bill Nelson Commits to Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

(Washington, DC) US Senator Bill Nelson has joined the effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the law that bans gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from serving openly and honestly in the military. Following months of grassroots lobbying, Nelson’s office announced this morning that the Senator plans to vote in favor of a compromise amendment sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Carl Levin.

Nelson sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is expected to consider, later this week, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” during its markup of the fiscal year 2011 Defense Authorization bill.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palm Beach County School District to Prohibit Anti-Gay Discrimination

Out In West Palm Beach
April 28, 2009

(West Palm Beach, Florida) More than 19 years after first being asked to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, members of Palm Beach County's school board unanimously voted this evening to amend the school district's Equal Opportunity Policy and its Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression." The two policies are expected to be formally adopted at a public hearing within the next few weeks.

"Good things come to those who wait, and we have waited a long, long time," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council is a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

In 1991, the Council first asked the School Board of Palm Beach County to prohibit discrimination against the school district's gay and lesbian employees.

"Back then, a few members of the school board actually wanted to reserve the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian teachers," said Hoch. "They did not want to have the words 'sexual orientation' in any school district policy."

After months of discussion, in an attempt to compromise, the school board revised the school district's nondiscrimination policies by eliminating the references to all protected classes.

"It was an absurd compromise," said Hoch. "Race, religion, national origin, color, sex, age, marital status and handicap were all removed from the school district's nondiscrimination policy."

"The purpose of anti-discrimination policies is to inform employers and employees what is prohibited," Hoch told The Palm Beach Post at the time. "Unless you are a civil rights lawyer, this policy will not let you know what is prohibited."

The school district's compromise policy was short lived.

In 1996, the US Supreme Court addressed the issue in the landmark gay rights case Romer v. Evans.

Writing for the majority Justice Anthony Kennedy noted, "Enumeration is the essential device used to make the duty not to discriminate concrete and to provide guidance for those who must comply."

As a result, the school board restored the listing of protected classes in the district's anti-bias policies - but still refused to add sexual orientation.

In 2002, the Council renewed its efforts to have the school board take steps to protect gay and lesbian students and employees from discrimination and harassment. Over the years that followed, the school board made painfully incremental progress.

The Council's first priority was to protect public schools students who were being subjected to harassment at school.

After extensive lobbying by the Council, in 2003 the school board adopted a policy protecting students against harassment based on sexual orientation. Following additional lobbying by the Council, in 2008, the school board agreed to include gender identity or expression.

In 2006, the school district adopted a commercial nondiscrimination policy that prohibited the school board from contracting with any business that discriminated on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or disability. The policy was amended in 2009 to include gender identity or expression.

"The school district's policy required contractors to affirm that they would not discriminate against gay men and lesbians," said Hoch. "But until now, the school board showed little interest in a policy that would impose the identical requirements on the School District of Palm Beach County."

Noting the inconsistencies among the school districts various nondiscrimination policies, the Council repeatedly asked the school board to conform all of the nondiscrimination policies to each other and to the applicable anti-discrimination laws.

"It should not have taken so many years to persuade the school board to protect gay and lesbian employees from discrimination," said Hoch.

URL: http://www.outinwestpalmbeach.com/home/news.asp?articleid=34130

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Act Now LGBT and Allied Groups Call on Congress to Pass ENDA Now

More than 200 Organizations Demand Immediate Action

(Washington, DC, April 21) — Today, the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations, along with allies in the faith, labor and civil rights communities, issued the following statement to members of the United States Congress:

“Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act NOW.”

Equality Federation, Toni Broaddus, Executive Director
Family Equality Council, Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), Lee Swislow, Executive Director
Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, President
National Black Justice Coalition, Sharon J. Lettman, Executive Director/CEO
National Center for Lesbian Rights, Kate Kendell, Esq., Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Stonewall Democrats, Michael Mitchell, Executive Director
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays National, Jody M. Huckaby, Executive Director
Pride at Work, AFL-CIO, Peggy Shorey, Executive Director
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Selisse Berry, Founding Executive Director
Transgender Law Center, Masen Davis, Executive Director
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Terry Stone, Executive Director
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Shawn Gaylord, Director of Public Policy
A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Clayola Brown, President
Advocates for Youth, James Wagoner, President
African American Ministers in Action, Rev. Timothy McDonald, Chairman
AID Gwinnett, Larry M. Lehman, Executive Director
AIDS Action Council, William D. McColl, Political Director
Alabama Gender Alliance, J. D. Freeman, President
Alaska Together for Equality, Inc., Elias Rojas, Board President
Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Debra Kolodny, Executive Director
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Gerald W. McEntee, President
American Federation Of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, President
American Humanist Association, Karen Frantz, Communication and Policy Director
Arizona Stonewall Democrats, Erica Keppler, Chair
Arizona Trans Alliance, Erica Keppler, Co-Chair
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Amado Uno, Executive Director
Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, Patricia Friend, President
Atlanta Stonewall Democrats, Tim Cairl, President
Basic Rights Oregon, Jeana Frazzini, Executive Director
Baystate Stonewall Democrats, Claire Naughton, President
Bi Writers Association, Sheela Lambert, Founder
Bisexual Resource Center, Ellyn Ruthstrom, President
Black Pride Los Angeles, Milton Smith, Board President
California Council Of Churches/IMPACT, The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director
California Faith for Equality, Kerry Chaplin, Interfaith Organizing Director
Celtic Circle Church of US and Scotland, Rev. Lord Arteo MacAiken Sneath, Founding Elder Clergy/CEO
Central City AIDS Network, Inc, The Rainbow Center, Johnny Fambo, Executive Director
Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Robert F. Rivera, President
Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), Karen J. See, President
COLAGE, Beth Teper, Executive Director
Colorado Stonewall Democrats, Karen Bachman, Vice-Chair
Communications Workers of America, Annie Hill, Executive Vice President
Community Alliance and Action Network, Tim Pierce, President
Community Health Awareness Council, Monique Kane, Executive Director
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Rabbi
Consortium for Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Debbie Bazarsky, Co-Chair
Coqsure, Cris Land, Founder and Administrator
DC Trans Coalition, Sadie-Ryanne Baker, Leadership Committee Co-Chair
Democratic Party of Oregon, Meredith Wood-Smith, Chair
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE), Paul Almeida, President
DignityUSA, Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director
Empire State Pride Agenda, Joe Tarver, Interim Executive Director
Equal Rights Washington, Joshua Friedes, Executive Director
Equality Alabama, Lori Stabler, Board Co-Chair
Equality Arizona, Mike Remedi, Co-Chair Board of Directors
Equality California, Geoff Kors, Executive Director
Equality Florida, Nadine Smith, Executive Director
Equality Hawaii, Paul Gracie, Co-Chair
Equality Illinois, Bernard Cherkasov, Esq., CEO
Equality Iowa, Sandy Vopalka, Founder
Equality Maine, Betsy Smith, Executive Director
Equality Maryland, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director
Equality North Carolina, Ian Palmquist, Executive Director
Equality Ohio, Sue Doerfer, Executive Director
Equality South Dakota, Robert Doody, Chair
Equality Texas, Chuck Smith, Interim Executive Director
Equality Toledo Community Action, David Mann, President
Fair Housing of Marin, Nancy Kenyon, Executive Director
Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh, Peter Harvey, Executive Director
Fair Wisconsin, Katie Belanger, Executive Director
Fairness West Virginia, Stephen Skinner, President
Families United Against Hate (FUAH), Gabi Clayton, Board President
Female-To-Male International, Rabbi Levi Alter, President
Fight OUT Loud, Waymon Hudson, President
Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, Michael Albetta, Caucus President
Florida Together, Ted Howard, Executive Director
FORGE, Michael Munson, Executive Director
Forum For Equality, SarahJane Brady, Managing Director
Forward Montana, Matt Singer, CEO
Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson, Executive Director
FTM International Albuquerque, NM Chapter, Adrien Lawyer, Leader
FTM International Atlanta, GA Chapter, BT, Leader
FTM International Bay Area, CA AFLOAT-SOFFA Chapter, Genie Moore, Leader
FTM International North Texas Chapter, Clay Rieber, Leader
FTM International Ohio Chapter, Jake Nash, Leader
FTM International Sacramento, CA Chapter, Marty Diaz, Leader
FTM International San Buenaventura, CA Chapter, Seth Mwansa, Leader
FTMI International San Diego, CA Chapter, Connor Maddocks, Leader
Garden State Equality, Steven Goldstein, Chair and CEO
Gay And Lesbian Labor Activist Network
Gay & Lesbian Medical Association, Rebecca Allison, MD, President
Gay City Health Project, Fred Swanson, Executive Director
Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, Doug Landreth, Founder
Gay Liberation Network, Andy Thayer, Co-Founder
Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools, Cindy Crane, Executive Director
Gays and Lesbians United Against Discrimination, Caleb Laieski, Executive Director
Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Carolyn Laub, Executive Director
Greater Seattle Business Association GSBA, Louise Chernin, Executive Director
Gender Justice LA, Latrice Johnson, Executive Director
Gender Rights Advocacy Association of NJ, Barbra Casbar Siperstein, Director
Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner, Senior Pastor
Georgia Equality, Jeff Graham, Executive Director
Georgia Rural Urban Summit, Larry Pellegrini, Executive Director
Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Jeffrey D. Richardson, President
GetEQUAL, Kip Williams, Co-Founder
GLBT Bar Association of Washington, Cynthia Buhr, President
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco, David Waggoner, Co-President
H.E.R.O., Meg Sneed, Co-founder
Holy Sprit Ecumenical Church – Largo, FL, Rev Steven M. Rosczewski, Pastor
Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Inc, Scott W. Gehl, Executive Director
Human Rights Campaign of Vanderbilt University, Luis Munoz, President
Immigration Equality, Julie Kruse, Policy Director
Ingersoll Gender Center, Marsha Botzer, Co-President
Integrity USA, John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, Co-Chair
International Court Council, Coco LaChine, President
International Federation of Black Prides, Inc, Earl Fowlkes, President/CEO
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, AFL-CIO, James A. Williams, General President
Jacksonville Now, Jeremy Gould, CEO
Jefferson County, Colorado, Democratic Party, GLBT Caucus, David Reaser, Chair
Jewish Family & Career Services – The Rainbow Center in Atlanta, Gary Miller, CEO
Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc, Tracee McDaniel, Executive Director
Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, Antonio David Garcia, Executive Director
Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Travis Myles, Chairperson
Keshet, Idit Klein, Executive Director
KnoxBoyz of East Tennessee, BEAR A-M Rodgers, Founding Executive Director
KnoxGirlz of East Tennessee, Deirdre Radcliffe, Executive Director
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Hector E. Sanchez, Executive Director
LaGender Inc, Dee Dee Chamblee, Executive Director
Lambda Legal, Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director
Lavender Caucus SEIU, Eastern Region, Tony Fernandes, President
Legal Aid Services of Broward County, Anthony J. Karrat, Esq., Executive Director
Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, Joan M. Graff, President
Legal Voice, Lisa Stone, Executive Director
Lepoco Peace Center, Nancy Tate, Executive Director
Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens (LGBDQ), Bruce Friedman, President
Lesbian and Gay Family Building Project, Claudia E. Stallman, Project Director
LGBT Stonewall Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia, Roland Winston, Chairman
Log Cabin Republicans, Terry Hamilton, National Chairman
Long Island Housing Services, Michelle Santantonio, Executive Director
Love Makes a Family PAC, Martin L. Heft, Chairman
Lutherans Concerned/North America, Ross Murray, Interim Executive Director
Maine Transgender Network, Inc, Alex Roan, Executive Director
Massachusetts Lesbian & Gay Bar Association, David Eppley, Co-Chair
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Gunner Scott, Executive Director
Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization, Leslie J. Calman, Ph.D., Executive Director
MEGA Family Project, Kathy Kelly, Executive Director
Metropolitan Community Churches, The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc., Jim McCarthy, President/CEO
Michigan AIDS Coalition, Detroit, Michigan, Craig Covey, Operating Officer
More Light Presbyterians, Michael J. Adee, Executive Director
NAACP, Hilary O. Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior VP for Advocacy and Policy
National Caucus SEIU, Tom Barbera, President
National Coalition for LGBT Health, Rebecca Fox, Executive Director
National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Ratzan, President
National Fair Housing Alliance, Shanna L. Smith, President and CEO
National Marriage Boycott, Laura Wadden, Executive Director
National Organization for Women – Alabama, Shirley Ann Rawls, President
National Student Genderblind Campaign, David Norton, Executive Director
National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), Gregory Varnum, Executive Director New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, Mo Baxley, Executive Director
New Mexico GLBTQ Centers, David Stocum, Executive Director
New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), Pauline Park, Chair
New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO), Joann Prinzivalli, Executive Director
Northwest PA Trans Group, Joanne Lynn Benjamin, Founder
Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary-Treasurer Emerita
One Colorado, Lea Ann Purvis, Interim Executive Director
Our Family Coalition, Judy Appel, Executive Director
Out4Immigration, Amos Lim, Founding Board Member
OutFront Minnesota, Amy Johnson, Executive Director
Outlet Program, Eileen Ross, Director
Outright Vermont, Melissa Murray, Executive Director
PA Diversity Network, Liz Bradbury, Executive Director
Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Rand Hoch, President and Founder
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals of Jacksonville, FL, Frieda Saraga, President
People For the American Way, Michael B. Keegan, President
Perpetual Transition, Casey Lanham, Co-Founder
PFLAG-Vero Beach, Carl Burns, Treasurer
Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center, Ryan Acker, Executive Director
Pride At Work, Martin Luther King County WA Chapter, Mike Andrews, Secretary-Treasurer, Chapter Lead
Pride Tampa Bay, R. Zeke Fread, Executive Director
PROMO (Missouri), A. J. Bockelman, Executive Director
Religious Institute, The Reverend Debra W. Haffner, Executive Director
Respect Resource Group, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Randy Kammer, Executive Sponsor
Rockway Institute, a unit of the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, San Francisco campus, Robert-Jay Green, Executive Director
Room for All (Reformed Church in America), Rev. Robert D. Williams, Founding Co-President
RU12? Community Center and Vermont TransAction, Kara DeLeonardis, MSW, LICSW, Executive Director
S. U. R. E. Foundation, Dr. Mekah Gordon Ph.D., Founder/CEO
Safe Schools Coalition, Kyle Rapinan, Co-chair
San Francisco LGBT Community Center, Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director
Santa Cruz County Task Force for LGBTIQ Youth, Stuart Rosenstein, Chair
SEIU 509 Lavender Caucus, Tom Barbera, President
Service Employees International Union, Anna Burger, International Secretary Treasurer
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), Joseph DiNorcia Jr., President and CEO
SOFFAs of East Tennessee Transgenders, Valerie Knight, Executive Director
South Bay Transmen, Lance Moore, Organizer
South Carolina Equality, B. Dean Pierce, Chair, Board of Directors
Stonewall Democratic Club of New York, Joseph G. Hagelmann, III, President
Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada, Derek Washington, Chair
Stonewall Democrats of Volusia & Flagler, Larry Glinzman, President
Stonewall Democrats of Pasco County, Jocelyn A. Dickman, President
Sunshine Social Services, Inc/SunServe, Mark Adler, MPH, Executive Director
Tennessee Equality Project, H.G. Stovall, Board President
Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, Randy Cox, President/Chair
Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, Marisa Richmond, Ph.D., President
Tennessee Vals, Vickie Davis, Chair Woman
The American Institute of Bisexuality, Denise Penn MSW, Director
The Center (Des Moines, Iowa), Sandy Vopalka, Administrator
The Center For Artistic Revolution, Randi M. Romo, Executive Director
The Center for HIV Law and Policy, Catherine Hanssens, Executive Director
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS), Bernard Schlager, Ph.D., Executive Director
The Crystal Club, Barbie Rogers, President
The Family Tree LGBT Community Center, Jim Van Riper, Co-Chair
The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation, Hebrew Union Collage-Jewish Institute of Religion, Dr. Joel Kushner, Director
The Pride Center at Equality Park, Paul Hyman, Executive Director
Trans/Giving Arts Showcase, Kalil Cohen, Lead Organizer
Trans-Action Initiative of Bard College, Kira Gilman, Club Head
TransActive Education & Advocacy, Jenn Burleton, Executive Director
Transgender at Work, Mary Ann Horton, Chair
Transgender Education Network of Texas, Lisa Scheps, Executive Director
Transgender Equality Rights Initiative (TERI), Jacqui Charvet, Co-Administrator
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Michael Silverman, Executive Director
TransOhio, Shane Morgan, Founder & Chair
Triangle Community Center, Norwalk, CT, Christopher J. Spiegelman, Board President
Triangle Foundation/Michigan Equality, Alicia Skillman, Executive Director
Tucson GLBT Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Fishman, President
UNITE HERE International Union, John Wilhelm, President
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Executive Minister
Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, CA, Rev. Lindi Ramsden, Executive Director
Vermont Freedom to Marry Action Committee, Beth Robinson, Chair
Washington Gender Alliance, Rory Gould, President
Western Mass Pride at Work, David James, President
WKJCE TLGB Radio, Alanna Maneer, Co Founder
Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), Mary E. Hunt, Executive Director
YouthPride, Inc, Terence McPhaul, Executive Director

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gay, lesbian hospital rules change celebrated by local activists

By Lona O'Connor
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, April 16, 2010

Activists in Palm Beach County were delighted Friday by President Obama's move to issue new rules covering hospital visitation by gay and lesbian partners, even though a county ordinance provides similar protections.

"This is monumental for people in the gay and lesbian community," said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. "No matter where you live in America, you will be treated in the same way."

In Palm Beach County, an ordinance on the books since 2006 allows gay, lesbian and straight domestic partners to register. Once registered, the domestic partner has the ability to make health-care decisions for his or her partner.

A highly publicized 2007 Miami case showed what can go wrong when hospital employees deny a domestic partner access to his or her loved one.

Janice Langbehn was separated for eight hours from Mary Pond, her partner of 18 years, because Langbehn was not carrying documents proving that she was Pond's domestic partner. As Langbehn struggled to get the documents, Pond slipped into a coma and died alone.

On Monday, Jackson Memorial Hospital, where the incident occurred, announced new rules to protect domestic partners from a recurrence of the Langbehn case.

Obama called Langbehn from Air Force One on Thursday to let her know that he ordered all hospitals accepting federal Medicare and Medicaid money to allow visitation by domestic partners.

As usual, the devil could be in the details.

Though Palm Beach County offers protection to same-sex couples, the state does not. If a same-sex partner is unable to document his or her relationship to the sick or injured person, Florida hospitals are legally required to revert to a "next of kin" rule, calling parents, siblings and other relatives before they can recognize the domestic partner, said James Beaudreau, education and policy director of the San Francisco-based advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

Hoch and others urge people to carry laminated wallet-sized copies of their domestic-partner registrations that they can show to hospital personnel.

The presidential memo sends a strong signal to hospitals to make sure their policies do not discriminate.

"This is just a memorandum," said Beaudreau. "But it demonstrates that there is recognition (of gay couples) at the highest level."

Obama gave federal agencies 180 days to work out the details.

The next step, said Beaudreau, is to make sure hospital personnel are trained not to discriminate.

Hoch said that since the 2006 county ordinance protecting gay and lesbian domestic partners, he has not heard of any case such as the Langbehn incident.

And he does not anticipate any in the near future.

"Let me put it this way," Hoch said. "I would not want to be the person in the hospital who denies a legitimate domestic partner the right to help."


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Incoming Florida Atlantic University President Saunders Called On To Address Gay Issues

(Boca Raton, Florida) In the "Price of Silence" lecture at Florida Atlantic University this evening, gay activist Rand Hoch, called on incoming FAU president Mary Jane Saunders to address gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues when she assumes her responsibilities at the state university this summer.

Hoch, who served as Florida's first openly gay judge, is president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. Since 1988, the Council has persuaded public employers in Florida to enact more than sixty laws and policies benefiting Florida's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

The Council began working on gay issues with Florida Atlantic University in 2005. Individual faculty members and the FAU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida have been working on these issues behind the scenes for well over a decade.

Addressing FAU faculty and students in Barry Kaye Hall, Hoch called for an end to the "culture of silence" regarding gay issues at the university.

"For years, those on the FAU faculty and staff who have raised gay issues have felt marginalized or ignored. Some have even been subjected to ridicule for publicly addressing gay concerns," said Hoch. "After a while some of these gay and gay-supportive individuals became silent. Some have told me it wasn't just the marginalization they feared, they feared reprisal."

"Eight of the eleven state universities have clearly written policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Hoch. "But not FAU."

The University of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, the University of West Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University and New College of Florida all have nondiscrimination policies which specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"With Dr. Saunders's leadership, progress could be made," said Hoch. "Send an e-mail to President Sauders welcoming her to Florida Atlantic University. Ask her to set up a task force to specifically address the concerns of your university's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."

"During his tenure as FAU President, Frank Brogan steadfastly refused to include the words 'sexual orientation' in the nondiscrimination policies and he ignored all requests regarding domestic partner benefits," said Hoch.

Brogan stepped down as the university's president last year to become chancellor for the State University System of Florida.

In 2003, after the FAU Faculty Senate overwhelmingly passed a motion supporting domestic partner benefits, then-Provost Ken Jessell put together a committee to study domestic partner benefits. In its report, the committee strongly recommended that FAU offer domestic partner benefits.

"That was six and one-half years ago,"said Hoch. "FAU still does not offer domestic partner benefits."

More than a dozen of Florida's public universities and colleges now offer domestic partner benefits to their employees. The schools include the University of Florida, the University of South Florida and Florida International University as well as at Brevard Community College, Broward College, Central Florida Community College, Florida Keys Community College, Hillsborough Community College, Lake-Sumter Community College, Manatee Community College, Miami-Dade College, Okaloosa-Walton College, Palm Beach State College, Pasco-Hernando Community College, Santa Fe Community College and Seminole Community College.

"Based on what other state institutions of higher learning are paying to implement domestic partner benefits in their workplaces, the cost of offering domestic partner benefits at FAU would probably be around $35,000 - basically the cost that any two of FAU's 22,000 students pay to attend the school for one year," Hoch predicted.

Cleveland State University, where Dr. Saunders served as provost, maintains a Safe Space Program whose goal is to create visible peer support and awareness of, for, and among gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning students.

"The CSU Safe Space Program recognizes that while other minority students can easily identify role models and mentors, the invisibility of sexual orientation makes it very difficult for gay students to ascertain where they can safely turn for support and information," said Hoch "The Safe Space program provides these students with access to and recognition of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities who are available to aid LGBT students in making connections with the resources available to them."

Hoch asked the assembled faculty and students to call on President Saunders to establish a Safe Space Program at FAU.



(Wellington, Florida) On April 3, the Village of Wellington played host to the world's first international gay polo tournament. Two days later, Village Attorney Jeffrey Kurtz rejected a local gay rights group's request to revise the Village's employment policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The people who bring their horses -- and their dollars -- to Wellington are extremely gay friendly," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council .

The Council is a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"Gay men and lesbians have long been a very visible part of Wellington's equestrian community," said Jamie Todd Foreman, an openly gay attorney who lives in nearby Lake Worth.

Early this year, after the Gay Polo League announced it would hold its first national polo tournament in Wellington, the Council sent a letter to Village Manager Paul Schofield requesting him to update Village policies to prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Village employees.

Wellington previously denied similar requests made in 2006 and 2008, according to Hoch.

"Since Wellington was now welcoming gay polo, the Council expected a positive response this year," said Hoch."We really were taken aback by the Village's denial of our request."

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has been successful in persuading local municipalities adopt gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies.

"More than sixty percent of Palm Beach County's cities, towns and villages now have gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies," said Hoch. "Wellington's continued refusal to adopt gay inclusive policies is the exception, not the rule.

Two openly gay men and one lesbian currently serve as mayors of Palm Beach County municipalities, and the city manager of another city is transsexual, according to the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

"In Florida, you can't get more gay welcoming than Palm Beach County," said Foreman.

The gay polo tournament.was a tremendous success. Nearly 1,500 people, including hundreds of openly gay men and lesbians, mingled in the Florida sunshine, tailgating and watching four teams compete at the Grand Champion Polo Club's fields.

"It is such a pleasure and an honor to have this event in Wellington," said Wellington resident Robert Dover, a six-time U.S. Olympic dressage rider

"Everyone had a great afternoon," said Hoch. "Even Nacho was there, having fun with brought his kids".

Nacho Figueras, who is considered one of the world's best polo players, is also a top model for Ralph Lauren fragrances.

Gay Polo League president Chip McKenney is considering having the league return to Wellington in 2011 for another tournament with more players and spectators.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council expects Wellington to revise the policies before next year's tournament.

"Our next step is to appeal directly to the Mayor and Village Council," said Hoch. Hopefully they will understand that Wellington's public image is now under scrutiny." [4/13/10]

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are Lesbians and Gay Men a Minority?

by Fred Fejes, PhD
Professor, School of Communication and Multimedia Studies
Florida Atlantic University
© 2008 Fred Fejes
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national gay-rights advocacy organization,   approximately  570  colleges and universities have  explicit policies  protecting lesbian  and gay students, staff and faculty from discrimination on the basis  of   sexuality.  A smaller but growing  number of schools  have policies granting  partner benefits to lesbian and gay staff  and also  recognizing gender identity as a protected class.  Not only private  institutions  and universities in the liberal areas of  the  North  and the West Coast  have such policies.  Red state public institutions  such as the University of Mississippi. the University  of Alabama, Auburn University, Texas A&M, the University of Nebraska and the University of South Carolina have   non-discrimination policies. The changes in  official attitudes  on lesbian and gay men on many campuses are impressive. Less than fifty years   ago at many  universities, faculty even suspected of being   homosexual were typically given the choice of  either   resigning  or immediate dismissal.

Such changes reflect not only  the growing visibility of lesbian and gay students, staff and faculty, but the  importance   now placed   on diversity on college campuses. In the increasingly complex and globalized  21st century society,  educational leaders   recognize that diversity, rather than a burdensome problem,  is  something to foster and sustain.  But while  diversity in general is clear and valued goal,  the  status of lesbians and gay men on campus   often remains clouded.
Whether lesbians and gay men fall under the broad umbrella of  diversity is often  contested.  

Current diversity efforts are the successors to  affirmative action   and other  programs undertaken by many   institutions.  Often in response to court  orders,  these programs were meant to  correct  decades old discrimination in  student admission and faculty and administrative hiring.  Such corrective efforts, and the laws behind them,  were outcomes  of what political sociologist John Skrentny has  called   The Minority Rights Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2002)   or that period  the 1950s -1970s when America confronted  its shameful  treatment of marginalized groups.   The  civil rights movement of that era  transformed American political culture by  creating a new and  powerful national narrative about minority group, identity,  oppression and struggle in the United States.

While the 1964 Civil Rights Act, outlawed discrimination on the basis of  “race, color, religion, sex, (and) national origin”   and theoretically covered all American citizens,  its implementation  focused on those groups  that lawmakers  and policymakers saw as particularly  victimized by discrimination.   In addition to African-Americans,  women, Americans of Hispanic and Asian ancestry  Native-Americans and, later,  the physically disabled were seen as conspicuous victims of discrimination.     Using   what Skrentny terms  the “black analogy,”  government policymakers, the media  and   the public in general placed these designated groups within the larger narrative  of minority group oppression  and victimhood  that,  “while unspoken, undebated  and unlegislated, nevertheless powerfully shaped policy.” 

Like these other groups,  lesbians and gay men met the  requirements of a minority group deserving protection from discrimination. They were subject to  discriminatory local, state and federal laws and policies. Earlier than other minority groups,   pioneer homosexual rights activists felt a strong kinship with the  growing civil rights movement and  were  the first group to copy their tactics of peaceful protest.  By the   mid 1970s  there was a  growing recognition  that lesbians and gay men were  a minority.
Much in the same way  that science stripped theories of  racial inferiority of their legitimacy,    medical  and scientific authorities  rejected earlier  theories pathologizing homosexuals. Similar to laws on segregation,  laws  restricting the rights of  homosexuals were now viewed as outmoded and unjust  and states   moved to repeal them.  Cities and counties across the country banned discrimination at the local level and  a number of states  moved to passing similar  laws.  Federal legislation was  introduced in Congress. Jimmy Carter, elected  President in 1976 on a platform of human rights, promised  attention to the concerns of America’s lesbian and gay  community. Soon after his inauguration  gay rights leaders were invited to the White House  to  discuss their issues.

However, for lesbians  and gay men, all of this progress came  to a sudden halt in the spring of 1977. Led by entertainer Anita Bryant,  local religious and conservatives  in Miami-Dade County Florida   mounted a  vigorous campaign to repeal a  county gay rights law. The successful effort attracted national and even internal attention.  The  theories and images of homosexuality as a sickness and perversion, now joined with condemnation by  religious conservatives,  still had a very  powerful hold on the public imagination. Similar successful campaigns the following year  in St. Paul Minnesota, Wichita, Kansas and Eugene Oregon  harbingered a national movement.  National political figures previously  supportive of gay rights  quickly distanced themselves.  The media treated  gay activists’ claims to minority status with increasing skepticism  Even lesbian and gay leaders themselves  recognized the futility of  casting their claims in the narrative of minority rights.
If lesbians and gay men were no  longer  viewed as a minority deserving  of protection against discrimination, what was their status in American society?  Was the progress on gay rights to be replaced by an era  of  Jim-Crow style legislation aimed at lesbians and gay men.  It seemed so. States from Alabama to New Jersey began recriminalizing homosexuality and considering  legislation to  restrict further the civil rights of lesbians and gay men. 

The showdown came in California in the  1978 elections.  Conservative activists, hoping to incite another Miami-style campaign,    placed a  measure on the  ballot  banning lesbians and gay men from teaching in public schools.  Early polls  showed that more than  60% of California voters supported  the ban. Gay activists feared  the referendum was only the beginning of a larger effort  to restrict  them  from other areas of public employment and state regulated professions.  However the  measure’s proponents  had overreached; they wrote their proposal so broadly that even heterosexual teachers  favoring  gay rights  could be  fired. Gay activists  opposing the measure  were joined not only by liberal and union leaders, but also   by noted conservatives such as Ronald Reagan  who saw it  as a serious attack on the rights of all California  citizens.  The measure lost by  more than  a million votes 
Since  1978  the question of the legal status of lesbian  and gay  men and their rights has been fought  in a cultural trench warfare between gay activists and conservative political and religious activists. Still  the  visibility, prominence  and vitality of the lesbian and  gay community have  grown. Lesbians and gay men  are regarded as important segments of many communities. In  the area of business and commerce, not only are they viewed as a significant  and growing market, many major corporations hoping to attract them as valuable employees offer  the recognition,  protections and benefits that the state is typically unwilling to grant. According to the HRC  433   of the Fortune 500 companies explicitly  ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including not only companies like Microsoft and General Motors, but  also Wal-mart and Winn-Dixie. In higher education, an institution’s  recognition and support of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered faculty, staff and students is a  mark of its commitment to diversity and  quality.  All   62 members of the prestigious  Association of American Universities (AAU) have non-discrimination policies and more than  two thirds provide partner benefits.
According to the HRC   approximately  570  colleges and universities have  explicit policies  protecting lesbian  and gay students, staff and faculty from discrimination on the basis  of   sexuality.  A smaller but growing  number of schools  have policies granting  partner benefits to lesbian and gay staff  and also  recognizing gender identity as a protected class.  Not only private  institutions  and universities in the liberal areas of  the  North  and the West Coast  have such policies.  Red state public institutions  such as the University of Mississippi. the University  of Alabama, Auburn University, Texas A&M, the University of Nebraska and the University of South Carolina have   non-discrimination policies. All   62 members of the prestigious  Association of American Universities (AAU) including the University of Florida have non-discrimination policies and more than  two thirds provide partner benefits.  The changes in  official attitudes  on lesbian and gay men on many campuses are impressive. Less than fifty years   ago at many  universities, faculty even suspected of being   homosexual were typically given the choice of  either   resigning  or immediate dismissal.
Still, although  570 colleges and universities have explicit polices addressing   their lesbian and gay concerns, and these include the University of Miami, Florida International University, Nova University, Broward, Miami-Dade ad Palm Beach Colleges,  the other approximately 3,700  higher education institutions  in America do not.   Among those institutions is  Florida Atlantic University.  One can only read   these  institutions’  lack of minimal protections as  a  disregard for its lesbian and gay faculty,  staff and students.  Unfortunately not only  lesbians  and gay men, but the institution itself    pays the costs.
It costs the institution top faculty, administrative and staff. Most institutions compete nationally for top talent. For  lesbian and gay employees,   the issue of protections and benefits are important and  can  either attract them   or send them away.  For example, in 2006   Robert W. Carpick, a leading researcher in nanotechnology left the University of Wisconsin for the University of Pennsylvania.  In 2003  he had married his partner of ten years in Canada, however the University was unable to offer him partner benefits due to  a  state measure banning gay marriages. The revenue  from research contracts  he took with him to Pennsylvania dwarfed  the estimated cost of the benefits.

It costs the institution in  students.    For many lesbian and gay youth in America, “coming out” or   acknowledging  one’s sexuality is  a high school experience and many high schools  provide  them a  safe and supportive environment. In considering  colleges, these students  look to see if  they  are  openly  welcomed  at a university and if their  concerns and safety  as openly lesbian and gay students are taken seriously.   Publications like The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students and websites like  www.campusclimateindex.org  rank various colleges and universities on their   policies and supportive campus environment. Lesbian and gay students  listen very carefully to what an institution says, and does not say, about people like them.

It cost the institution donor support. Many lesbian and gay baby boomers who remembered the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s are now organizing their estates.  These  alumni also  look very closely at what their  universities says and do  not say about  people like them.  After the death of gay activist  Phil Zwickler from AIDS in 1991  his family set up a foundation to commemorate his work. Part of the foundation’s effort is funding a  program of research fellowships at Cornel University. Richard Weiland, one of the first employees at Microsoft who died in 2006,  made a $60 million bequest to Stanford University. A significant portion of that was designated to support the University’s Lesbian and Gay Resource Center.
It costs  a university  any claims of  quality. As noted above,  a proactive stance on  diversity, including sexuality diversity,  is a mark of  a top echelon university.    Thus it  is hard to take  an institution’s clams  to excellence and diversity seriously  when all it can  offer  its lesbian and gay faculty, administrators, staff and students are   generic assertions  about “not discriminating against anybody.”  This is little  more than an academic  version of  a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Finally it costs the institution any claim of community leadership.  As Richard Florida  noted in his  research on the “creative class,”  a distinguishing feature of  communities in the forefront of  technological and biological  research and innovation  is an open  and  welcoming attitude towards diversity, including sexual diversity.  What message is  sent   about a community   when an institution devoted to  an  open and unfettered search for knowledge, and in many cases a community’s major employer, carefully hedges  its position on  issues of sexuality  and its own  lesbian, and gay faculty, staff and students.

In  the strictly technical  sense, lesbians and  gay men are not a minority, or at least no federal law has yet defined them as such.  However they are a vital,  visible part of the life of many  colleges  and  universities. Those institutions that recognize and welcome them benefit  from their talents and energies.  Moreover these  institutions send out a real message about their commitment to diversity and  quality. These universities are the leaders in higher education.  Hopefully their model will be followed  by those institutions that seek  to move forward. 

Fred Fejes, PhD
Professor, School of Communication and Multimedia Studies
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton FL 33431
office: 561-297-3858
cell:  954-465-3262
fax 561 297-2615

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults

A new report available from MAP and SAGE, Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults, shows that contrary to stereotypes, LGBT elders are more likely to live in poverty, face social and community isolation, and lack appropriate health care and long-term care. The report examines the unique barriers and disparities faced by LGBT elders. Momentum ReportIt also offers detailed and practical solutions, providing a roadmap for LGBT and aging advocates, policymakers, and anyone interested in ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to age with dignity and respect.

The report was authored by MAP and SAGE, in partnership with the American Society on Aging, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, and the Center for American Progress, with a foreword from AARP. MAP and SAGE officially launched the report last week in Chicago at the national Aging in America conference, and it has received coverage from CNN.com, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and other media.

To access the report, go to: http://www.lgbtmap.org/file/advancing-equality-for-lgbt-elders.pdf. To download other MAP reports, please visit www.lgbtmap.org.

We've also created a presence for MAP on Facebook and Twitter, to extend the reach of our work.

Report Abstract

Most Americans already face challenges as they age, but LGBT older adults have the added burden of a lifetime of stigma; familial relationships that generally lack legal recognition under the law; and unequal treatment under laws, programs and services designed to support and protect older Americans. The report examines three areas of particular difficulty for LGBT elders.

1. LGBT elders are less financially secure. LGBT older adults are poorer and less financially secure than American elders as a whole due to a lifetime of discrimination compounded by major laws and safety net programs that fail to protect and support LGBT elders equally with their heterosexual peers. The report examines the following key programs and their impacts: Social Security, Medicaid and long-term care, tax-qualified retirement plans, employee pensions, retiree health insurance benefits, estate taxes, veterans' benefits, and inheritance laws.

2. LGBT elders find it more difficult to achieve good health and healthcare. The report examines major reasons for this, including: LGBT elders' health disparities are overlooked; there is limited government support for the families and partners of LGBT elders; health care environments often are inhospitable to LGBT elders; nursing homes often fail to protect LGBT elders; and visitation policies and medical decision-making laws often exclude the families and partners of LGBT elders.

3. LGBT elders are more likely to face social isolation. Despite a high level of resilience and strong friendship networks, social isolation has still been found to be higher among LGBT older adults. In addition to being more likely to live alone, LGBT elders also are more likely to feel unwelcome in, or be unwelcome in, mainstream aging programs such as senior centers and volunteer centers. They also often lack support from, and feel unwelcome in, the broader LGBT community. Finally, housing discrimination adds to the challenges LGBT elders face in connecting to their communities and may separate LGBT elders from loved friends or partners.

In addition to examining the challenges faced by LGBT elders, the report also provides detailed and comprehensive policy analysis and recommendations.

Ineke Mushovic
Executive Director
Movement Advancement Project

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

West Palm Beach votes in support of allowing gay adoption

By Andrew Abramson, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

March 23, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH - The city commission took a stance against the state's ban on gay adoption, voting unanimously today to support a repeal of the ban.

Florida is the only state in the country that doesn't allow gay adoption and state representative Mary Brandenburg has already co-sponsored a bill in the Florida legislature that would repeal the ban.

Lake Worth and Wilton Manors previously passed similar resolutions supporting the repeal.

"It seems to me absolutely unbelievable that 49 states in this country have seen fit to pass laws that allow same-sex adoption, and Florida is back in the dark ages on this," Mayor Lois Frankel said. "The issue should be what's in the best interest of the child."

In Florida, gay couples can be foster parents, but can't adopt.

The Rev. Mark Boykin of the Church of All Nations of Boca Raton led a protest of four members outside City Hall, and then blasted the West Palm Beach resolution.

"There are so many issues and problems in the City of West Palm Beach," Boykin said. "The mayor and city commissioners need to be focused on solving these issues and not undermining the fabric of a nuclear family."

Rand Hoch, who represented the county's human rights council, said "there are many more children eligible for adoption then there are married heterosexual families wiling to adopt them. The ban is immoral because it harms children."

"This will give 3,000 children a much greater chance at loving, nurturing, caring home," said Commissioner Jeri Muoio, who brought forward the resolution.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Divided emotions, opinions on 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy

By John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 14, 2010

LAKE WORTH — In February, Isabel, a specialist with the 482nd Air Force Reserve, based in Homestead, was due to be deployed to Iraq.

Her life partner, Nicole, a civilian, was worried and not only about Isabel's safety.

"I said to myself, 'If something happens to her, will they even contact me?' " Nicole said. "My name is there to call in case of emergency, but I am not legally her family."

Isabel's deployment was eventually canceled, but she is still concerned.

"Nicole is not eligible for any of the benefits that spouses are entitled to," said Isabel, 26. "Married soldiers get more money when they are mobilized and the military also provides health, educational, housing benefits for your spouse. I am serving my country and this is very unfair."

The young woman is not really named Isabel. She uses a false name so as not to violate the current military policy regarding gay and lesbian soldiers. "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" championed by President Bill Clinton prohibits homosexual soldiers from identifying themselves as such, but also enjoins the military from asking them about their sexual orientation.

Adopted in 1993 it was seen as a middle ground between the previous policy that banned gays from the military altogether, and outright acceptance of homosexuals in the services.

Now the Obama administration wants the policy scrapped and for gays to serve openly. The ensuing debate has provoked strong opinions on both sides.

Suspicion can lead to investigation

Both active and former members of the military who are gay or lesbian, and who were interviewed for this article, all favor the eventual changing of the policy and say homosexuals should serve without hiding who they are.

Philippe Kalmanson, 40, of Lake Worth, wishes the change had come years ago, before anti-gay policies cost him his military career. He served almost four years in the Air Force and two in the Army. His release papers reflect an honorable discharge, various service ribbons and commendations, including the good conduct medal. But his last days in uniform, in 1991, weren't pleasant.

Kalmanson, a specialist with administrative duties, had recently returned from service in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, when he was summoned to an interview by military criminal investigators at Fort Bragg, N.C..

He had no idea why.

"It turned out that a military friend of mine based in South Carolina was being investigated for drug use," said Kalmanson. "They searched his room and found letters I had written to him from Saudi."

The men had met while serving in Korea two years before. The letters indicated they had been lovers.

According to an investigator's report, Kalmanson was detained for at least five hours.

The transcript of the interrogation details every cigarette, cup of coffee and Dr Pepper. Kalmanson confessed to the affair and was drummed out of the Army.

He says he met many gay men in the military, but any social activity among them was always away from their work and their military posts.

"You don't go into the military so you can be checking out guys in the shower," Kalmanson says. "It isn't like that."

The "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy would have probably saved his career, but he believes the military should go farther, especially given the need for manpower.

"Changing the policy wouldn't make much a difference," he says. "People gossip about who is gay anyway. And right now they need the bodies."

Stephanie, 31, of West Palm Beach, is gay and served in the Navy from 2000 to 2007, including almost two years at sea. She left as a lieutenant.

She says gay sailors sometimes revealed their sexual orientation, but rarely.

"You would stand watch at night on the bridge and you had time to talk," she says. "You had to know who to trust. It could be used against you, you could be discharged and lose all your benefits."

She said straight sailors gossiped about who might be gay "but there was never any kind of hate in it. Men and women who were thought to be gay weren't reviled by their shipmates."

She thinks most in the ranks would accept a change in policy, but officers at the top are conservative and will be harder to convince.

"And Obama needs to keep the military leaders happy right now given Iraq and Afghanistan," she says. "It will take time."

Among straight members of the military family, opinions are much more divided.

'This is a civil rights issue'

Ben Lubin, son of West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who served as a Marine captain in Iraq and Afghanistan, is straight and favors changing the policy immediately.

"Gay and lesbian people have fought and died for this country in wars all through our history," he said. "This is a civil rights issue. Women and blacks are allowed to serve today and they weren't at one time. Some day people will look back and say how could those people have embraced that policy. It's unjust."

Lubin said he believes many in the ranks wouldn't care, although he admits for some it will be a very contentious issue.

"But it's not up to them," he said. "Policy is made by elected officials and changing the policy is the right thing to do."

But Karl, 52, of Boca Raton, an Army National Guard sergeant who has served twice in Afghanistan, believes any change would have to be accomplished gradually, and possibly not at all. Karl is an assumed name because he is not authorized to speak to the press.

"I was raised in New York, was exposed to many different lifestyles, and it doesn't matter to me," he said. "But I've heard a lot of discussion and a lot of people in the ranks are against changing the policy."

He said many soldiers come from the more conservative parts of the country and are not sympathetic to gay rights.

"In some cases they have religious beliefs that cause them to have those positions," he said. "You also have these 'A type' personalities who are very against it. I guess you'd call them homophobic. The gay person won't be treated equally. Some of these guys just won't accept it."

That was once said about blacks. They were formally integrated into the military in 1948, when the U.S. wasn't at war.

Karl worries it will be harder for gays, and especailly now in wartime.

"In combat I need everybody focused on the same battle scheme," he said. "I need everybody working as a unit and gay soldiers serving openly could affect that. I don't believe women should serve in combat for that reason. Male soldiers tend to be overly protective of female soldiers and those males don't do what they are supposed to do.

"The dynamic would be different with gay soldiers but it could be a distraction," he said. "To make it work you would have to do a lot of education first. Maybe it would work in time. Maybe. For that reason I don't think it will pass now."

Karl said he is sympathetic to an immediate change to give everyone the same benefits. He said that question could be handled administratively so that no one in the field would have to know.

"Yes, I agree that's the fair thing and there should be a way to do it now," he said.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Florida must end bigotry against gays and lesbians

by Tony Plakas
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 10, 2010

Florida is the only state that still bans all gay men and lesbians from adopting children, although they can serve as foster parents. Even though the ban is most likely to be overturned in the courts soon, the Lake Worth City Commission was correct last week to unanimously direct state legislators to overturn the 1977 law that prohibits children in need from being adopted by gays.

Last year, a Monroe County circuit judge declared that the 1977 law "arose out of unveiled expressions of bigotry." Anita Bryant, a woman who once served our nation orange juice, began using her prominence to sell fear, waging a successful campaign that brands her to this day as an early and vocal opponent of homosexuality. However, few are aware that the groundwork to make Florida's government unfriendly to gays and lesbians was laid more than a decade before her rise and fall.

The 1963 Florida Legislature mandated a Legislative Investigation Committee to report on "the extent of infiltration into agencies supported by state funds by practicing homosexuals, the effect thereof on said agencies and the public, and the policies of various state agencies in dealing therewith."

In January 1964, taxpayer money was used to print and distribute a dark and ugly pamphlet, "Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida," "to be of value to all citizens; for every parent and every individual concerned with the moral climate of the state." The late Palm Beach Circuit Judge Marvin Mounts gave a rare copy of the document to me before he retired so I would always remember how far we have come. But it has been more a reminder of how far we have to go and how much we need to educate.

The booklet is a veritable Nazi-like propaganda piece, complete with obscene pictures and a "glossary of homosexual terms and deviant acts" that serves as a list of epithets that unquestionably intertwine homosexuality with pedophilia. Most of the bibliography cites research stemming from the Holocaust, and the leaflet ends with recommendations to "radically reduce the number of homosexuals preying upon the youth of Florida."

And it continues to this day. In January, a bill filed in the Florida House and Senate would revise the state's financial incentive program to provide tax credits to the film industry if filmmakers avoid certain subject matters, including the depiction of "nontraditional family values."

The time has come for the Florida Legislature to address continuing policies that demonize the gay community and atone for nearly a half a century of state-sponsored bigotry. However, it doesn't look like it is going to stop anytime soon, particularly when so many wish to gain politically for their stances on homosexuality.

Tony Plakas is CEO of Compass Inc., a gay and lesbian outreach center in Lake Worth.

E-mail Tony at homerule@post.harvard.edu.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lake Worth City Commission Opposes Gay Adoption Ban

Out In West Palm Beach

March 2, 2010

(Lake Worth, Florida) On the opening day of the Florida Legislative Session, Lake Worth City Commissioners unanimously voted to direct legislators to repeal a Florida law that has banned adoptions by gay men and lesbians since 1977.

The resolution, which was introduced by Lake Worth City Commissioner Cara Jennings, calls for state lawmakers to repeal Section 63.042 of Florida Statute which provides, "No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual."

Youth intervention specialist Donald Cavanaugh spoke in favor of the resolution, as did several other individuals affiliated with COMPASS -- Palm Beach County's GLBT community center.

Two bills, SB 102 and HB 3, were introduced by Senator Nan Rich (D-Sunrise) and Representative Mary Brandenburg (D-West Palm Beach) to repeal the adoption ban.

Florida is the only state with a law prohibiting gay men and lesbians - couples and individuals - from adopting children.

Three Florida courts have ruled that there is no rational, scientific or moral reason that sexual orientation should be a barrier to adopting children and that the ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians is unconstitutional, according to retired judge Rand Hoch, President and Founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council is a local nonprofit organization which is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"Three court decisions have now held that the ban on gay adoptions is unconstitutional," said Hoch. "Since the rulings apply only in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the legislature must now take action to permit gay men and lesbians to adopt children throughout the state of Florida."

"If the adoption ban is not repealed by the legislature this session, ultimately this unjust law will be overturned by the Florida Supreme Court," said Hoch.

Securing Our Children's Rights (SOCR) is the leading statewide organization lobbying for the repeal of Florida's law. For more information about SOCR, go to: www.socrflorida.com.

The ACLU of Florida has also undertaken a campaign to end the adoption ban. For more information on the ACLU's campaign, go to: http://www.aclufl.org/issues/lesbian_gay_rights/gay_adoption.cfm.

© 1997-2010 Ethan Interactive, Inc.

URL: http://www.outinwestpalmbeach.com/home/news.asp?articleid=33926

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Out In America
January 27, 2010

(West Palm Beach, Florida) Florida legislators were urged this afternoon to enact pro-family legislation creating a statewide domestic partnership registry. Once enacted, the legislation would provide unmarried couples many of the benefits provided by the state to married couples.

Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch addressed legislators at the final public hearing prior to the opening of the Florida legislature in March.

"Many couples choose not to marry so that they may preserve their social security, pension, and veterans benefits," said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
"However marriage is not an option for gay and lesbian Floridians in committed relationships."

Nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted comprehensive laws recognizing gay and lesbians relationships. Four states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont) and the District of Columbia provide full marriage equality. New Jersey recognized civil unions. Four additional states (California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) have domestic partnership legislation.

While marriage equality for gay men and lesbians is denied by Florida's laws and constitution, gay couples may register their domestic partnerships in some parts of Florida.

"Thanks to the efforts of local organizations such as Save-Dade, the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida, and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, gay couples may register as domestic partners throughout Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, as well as in the city of Gainesville," said Hoch.

"Regardless of where our families make our homes, we should be accorded the same rights and benefits that other families take for granted," Hoch told legislators.

"Once the law is enacted statewide, domestic partners will be allowed to visit their partners in a hospital with the same authority as spouses with regard to health care decisions," said Hoch. "Domestic partners will be notified as family members in the event of an accident, and in the event of a partner's death, they will be empowered to make funeral decisions."

With legislators wary of the Florida's multi-billion dollar deficit, Hoch informed legislators that the legislation requires no expenditure of state funds for office space or personnel, since the paperwork will be done by the Clerks of the Circuit Courts who are charged with processing marriage licenses.

"Since fees are assessed to register and terminate domestic partnerships, the legislation will actually generate income for the state," said Hoch.

The domestic partnership legislation was co-introduced by state senator Eleanor Sobel (D-Hallandale) and state representative Richard Steinberg (D-Miami Beach)