Friday, December 21, 2012

Boca Raton Appoints Openly Gay 17-year-old Tyler Morrison to City's Community Relations Board

South Florida Gay News - Written by Dylan Bouscher
December 19, 2012

Tyler Morrison went from speaking out against the Boca Raton City Council's lack of LGBT protection, to becoming one its employees, who is now unprotected by a 46-year-old anti-discrimination policy.

Boca Raton became the only city in Palm Beach County to opt-out of protecting its LGBT employees when it passed Ordinance 5161 in January 2011. Morrison, a gay 17-year-old Boca Raton resident, introduced himself to the City Council at its Nov. 14 meeting. Once there, he urged the council members to update a 46-year-old anti-discrimination policy to include protection for the city's LGBT employees.

When city council member Constance Scott supported Morrison and asked the rest of the council what prevented them from moving into the 21st century, Morrison cried.

Then, at their Dec. 11 meeting, the Boca Raton City Council unanimously appointed Morrison to the city's community relations board.

"He seemed like such an articulate and dedicated young man who wanted to get involved," Susan Haynie, Boca Raton's Deputy Mayor, told SFGN after the meeting. "And I suggested that serving on one of the city's advisory boards was the perfect vehicle for him to get involved with our community."

Morrison, however, wasn't at the meeting where the council appointed him. He was playing oboe at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in his school's holiday concert.

"I tried to log on to watch the meeting live, and the Internet wasn't allowing me to view the live video feed," Morrison said. "So it was a little frustrating at first."

Then Rand Hoch, the President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), left Morrison a face book comment congratulating him for the unanimous appointment.

"This makes you, probably, the youngest openly gay appointed public official in Florida. Congrats," Hoch wrote.

The PBCHRC is a local non-profit focused on eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Recently, they have been pushing the Boca Raton City Council to rescind Ordinance 5161 and update its policy along with Morrison.

"I'm not so interested in the title or being the first this, or first that," Morrison said. "It doesn't matter unless I do something about it. I'm looking forward to what I can do."

Hoch came across the community relations board vacancy while researching the Boca Raton city council's anti-discrimination policy. He also encouraged Morrison to apply for the position.

"We discussed it, and he thought that would be something worthwhile to apply to because, at the time, there was no LGBT representation on the Board," Hoch said. "And he's extremely interested in participatory government."

Extremely interested is an understatement. Morrison wants to run for Mayor of Boca Raton in 2014.

"I think he's got to put in his time, before he becomes a viable candidate for Mayor," Hoch said. "One of the ways you do that is to run for city council and one of the ways you do that is to be on the community relations board. But there's a lot of time between now and March 2014, when the election is. Who knows, with his experience on the community relations board, he could be a viable candidate."
Boca Raton Deputy Mayor Susan Haynie agrees Morrison needs time.

"I would like to speak with him about that," Haynie said. "I really want to educate him on what kind of a commitment that truly is too. But for now I think board service is the perfect place for him."

In the meantime, Morrison is focused on using his new position to expand LGBT rights in the city. He's starting with the anti-discrimination policy.

"Absolutely, absolutely, 100 percent, there's not a doubt in my mind it should be updated," Morrison said.

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