Thursday, February 2, 2017

President's Message - February 2017

February 1, 2017

Now, more than ever, local LGBTQ advocacy will be the key to progress for our community.  It is clear that safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ Americans will not be a priority for the Trump Administration and the Republican-led Congress.

Fortunately, since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) has worked diligently to elect LGBTQ-supportive candidates for public office. For almost three decades, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) has worked with these public officials to enact local ordinances and policies to provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the LGBTQ community.

As a result of our efforts, throughout Palm Beach County it is illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people with regard to employment, housing and public accommodation. In addition, there are now 117 local ordinances, resolutions, collective bargaining agreements and policies that provide Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents and visitors equal rights, protections and benefits. A complete list can be found by clicking here and selecting the "Laws & Policies" tab.

In a few weeks, municipal elections will be held throughout Palm Beach County.  While the Town of Palm Beach will hold its election on February 7, other communities (including, but not limited to Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Derlay Beach, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach) will hold their elections on March 14.

PBCHRCVA endorses candidates who support LGBTQ initiatives and privacy rights.  Endorsements of candidates are made upon consideration of:

●    How a candidate has voted on LGBTQ issues 
●    How a candidate has supported the Palm Beach County LGBTQ community
Over the past several weeks, PBCHRCVA representatives have reviewed the records of incumbent office holders throughout the county. We have interviewed numerous candidates running in the March municipal elections and we will conduct additional interviews throughout February.

To date, the following candidates have been endorsed by The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance in their campaigns for election (or re-election) in 2017:

Boca Raton Mayor - Susan Haynie 
Boynton Beach City Commission (Dist. 2) - Mack McCray 
Boynton Beach City Commission (Dist. 4) - Joe Casello 
Greenacres Mayor - Jonathan Pearce 
Greenacres City Council (Dist. 1) - Lisa Rivera 
Greenacres City Council (Dist. 5) - Paula Bousquet 
Lake Worth City Commission (Dist. 2) - Christopher McVoy 
Palm Beach Town Council - Danielle Hickox Moore 
West Palm Beach City Commission (Dist. 2) -  Cory Neering 
West Palm Beach City Commission (Dist. 4) -  Keith James 

Congratulations to Palm Beach Town Councilwoman Danielle Hickox Moore and West Palm Beach City Commissioners Cory Neering and Keith James, who were re-elected without opposition.
As our candidate screening process moves forward, we will be updating our list of endorsed candidates. To view the most current list of candidates endorsed by PBCHRCVA, click here.

PBCHRC's top priority for 2017 is to ban the practice of conversion therapy on minors (a discredited method of counseling based on the erroneous assumption that LGBTQ identities are mental disorders that can be cured through aversion treatment) throughout Palm Beach County.

Conversion therapy has long been rejected by our nation's leading medical and mental health organizations.  Across the nation, it is banned in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, the District of Columbia, Cincinnati, Seattle and Pittsburgh.

Trent photo PBCHRC Board Member Trent Steele and I have been coordinating the local efforts to ban conversion therapy.  PBCHRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center to work on banning conversion therapy on minors throughout Palm Beach County. As a result of our collaborative efforts, bans on conversion therapy on minors have already been enacted - unanimously - by city commissions in West Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Boynton Beach.

In drafting our model ordinance, PBCHRC relied heavily one the work done by a longtime PBCHRC ally - Robert Rosenwald, First Assistant City Attorney for Miami Beach.  Rob got the ball rolling last year by drafting - and persuading the Miami Beach City Commission to enact - the first conversion therapy ban in Florida. PBCHRC has worked with Rob for more than a decade, both at the City of Miami Beach and at the ACLU of Florida, where Rob served as director of the organization's LGBTQ Advocacy Project. No doubt, we will be relying on his insight, experience and talent in the years to come, as we move forward with other local LGBTQ-related initiatives.

Assistant West Palm Beach City Attorney Zoë Panarites also has been instrumental in our efforts and successes. Utilizing the draft Trent and I provided, she strengthened the ordinance, which was enacted in West Palm Beach.  We are now using Zoë's ordinance as the model for other municipalities throughout Palm Beach County.

Special thanks go out to Rachel Needle, a local psychologist who has presented expert testimony about the harms caused by conversion therapy at the public hearings in West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach.

We also have been working closely with our Miami-Dade County counterpart, SAVE, which is conducting a similarly successful campaign to ban conversion therapy on minors throughout Miami-Dade County. As the result of the efforts of SAVE, conversion therapy bans have been enacted in Miami Beach, Miami, Bay Harbor Islands, North Bay Village and El Portal.

In Broward County, Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Justin S. Flippen succeeded in having the city commission enact a similar ban. Justin, an openly gay man who went through conversion therapy in his youth, has been extremely helpful to our campaign by making himself available to the local media. His television appearances have been both educational and moving.

In the months to come, PBCHRC will seek to enact similar bans on conversion therapy in other local municipalities. Our ultimate goal is to persuade the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners to enact a countywide ban protecting LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy.

Unfortunately, our opponents are already at work trying to undermine our efforts to ban conversion therapy.  On January 31, State Representative Randy Fine ( R - Palm Bay)  filed H.B. 17, which, if enacted, would  prohibit any local government from adopting any regulation on any business, profession, and occupation unless there is an express authorization from the legislature through a general law.  If enacted, this law could nullify almost all of the conversion therapy bans already in place -- and all of the one PBCHRC and SAVE are currently working on.  PBCHRC is working with our allies in the legislature to kill this bill.

In her role as Youth Regional Organizer for Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, PBCHRC Board Member Carly Cass organized the Women's March in Tallahassee. More than 15,000 people from throughout Florida participated in the event on January 21.   

Carly also continues her efforts to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ students in Palm Beach County's public schools. She currently is working closely with school board members and school district staff to advocate for medically accurate, inclusive, sexual health education within in our public schools.  PBCHRC continues to support our school board members in their efforts to create a safe, inclusive environment for our students.

As the Southern District Director of NOW, PBCHRC Board Member Meredith Ockman was one of the lead speakers at the West Palm Beach Women's Rally on January 21, which attracted more than 10,000 of our allies.

Kudos to Meredith and Carly for their work bringing our allies together -- and for speaking out so effectively on our behalf.

On February 24, PBCHRC Board Member Hutch Floyd will be co-presenting a webinar entitled "Inclusion in the Workplace and Justice in the Courts-LGBTQ Considerations" for the  National Association for Court Management Communications Committee. Hutch also reports that at the direction of the Honorable Jeffrey Colbath, Chief Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, two administrative orders were updated. Administrative Order 11.701, Civil Rights Complaint Procedure was amended to specifically include complaints of discrimination based on "gender identity or expression." Administrative Order 11.702, Code of Conduct for Non-Judicial Employees was amended to prohibit discrimination based on "gender identity and expression."
PBCHRC is now taking applications for the 2017 Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards. The scholarships will be awarded to Palm Beach County high school seniors who have demonstrated an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Applications must be received by midnight April 7, 2017. To apply, please click here.

This year's Winter Fête was an incredible success. On January 14, more than 200 PBCHRC supporters partied throughout the night at the home of Mason Phelps and Ron Neal in Wellington. Thanks go out to Mason and Ron for their hospitality, as well as to Bruce Langmaid and Chuck Poole, who hosted the pre-party honoring the Winter Fête underwriters.

As a result of generous underwriting, every dollar raised from ticket sales will be used to fund PBCHRC initiatives. Thanks go to underwriters Lee Bell and Fotios Pantazis, County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger, State Rep. Lori Berman,  David Chin and Thomas Hayden, James Berwind and Kevin Clark, David Cohen and Paul Bernabeo, Christopher Caneles and Stephen Nesbitt, Tom Corrigan and Craig Mitchell, Arlen Dominek & A. J. Young, Bill Eberhardt, former Congressman Mark Foley and Ryan Ruark, Charlie Fredrickson, the Gay Polo League, Michael Grattendick and Chip Freeman, Howard Grossman, M.D., Dan Hall, West Palm Beach City Commissioner Keith James, Michael Kagdis, County Commissioner Dave Kerner, Wood Kinnard and Alberto Arias, Sid Lesowitz and Peter Rogers, Lou Marotta and Mike Fullwood, David Miller and Ray Wakefield, George J. Palladino and Jerrold St. George, Phelps Media Group, Mason Phelps and Ron Neal, Joseph Pubillones Interiors, State Sen. Kevin Rader, Rooster's, West Palm Beach City Commissioner Paula Ryan, Trent Steele and Wayne Lewis, J.P. Sasser, Stephen Mooney and Scott Velozo, Don Todorich, Donald Watren and Tony Jaggi, and Fred Zrinscak.

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently on behalf of the LGBTQ community. With your support, we will continue to do so in the years to come - and we will keep you posted on our progress!

Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder