Wednesday, January 29, 2020

West Palm Beach Begins Gender-Neutral Restroom Initiative

West Palm Beach City Hall Complex

(West Palm Beach, Florida) The City of West Palm Beach has desgnated thirty single-occupancy restrooms in the City Hall complex as "Gender Neutral". 

The installation of the thirty signs completes Phase One of the Gender Neutral Restroom Project initiated in West Palm Beach last year by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC). PBCHRC is Florida's oldest, independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. 

"Transgender, gender nonconforming, nonbinary, and intersex people often face prejudice, discrimination and humiliation in their everyday lives," said PBCHRC President and Founder Hoch. "They deserve the same dignity and respect as everyone else enjoys, in every area of their lives - including being able to use public restrooms in which they feel comfortable."

"The segregation of single-occupancy restrooms by gender no longer makes sense," said West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James. "No person in West Palm Beach should be denied the ability to use a single-stall restroom just because of who they are."

Signs on multiple-occupancy restrooms in the City Hall Complex will retain the designations "Men" or "Women".

A 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 59% of transgender adults avoided using a public restroom out of fear of confrontation and 32% limited how much they ate or drank just to avoid using a public restroom.

According to a 2016 study published by The Williams Institute, an estimated 0.6% of adult Americans identify as transgender. With more than 100,000 transgender adults, Florida ranks sixth in the United States.

"All gender restrooms will also ease the burden on people with disabilities who require the help of attendants, as well as parents with children of a different gender," said James. "All West Palm Beach residents should feel equally safe, supported, comfortable and included when they go out."

Phase Two of PBCHRC's Gender Neutral Restroom Project should be completed in the upcoming months when the news signs are installed at 130 additional single-occupancy restrooms on properties owned by the City of West Palm Beach.

For the final stage of the project, PBCHRC will be asking the West Palm Beach City Commission to update the City's building code to require gender neutral signs on all single-occupancy restooms in commercial buildings throughout the city. 

PBCHRC has also asked Palm Beach County to designate single-occupancy restrooms in county owned buildings to be designated as as All-Gender. The county's Director of Facilities Development & Operations recently recommended the designation in a report to the County Commissioners, who will  consider the recommendation later this year.  

Vermont, New Mexico, Illinois, and California, as well as in the cities of Austin, Chicago, Denver, Gainesville, Hoboken, Miami Beach, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Seattle and Washington, DC. have enacted laws mandating that single-occupancy toilets in public spaces be labeled gender-neutral. In addition, more than 200 colleges and universities throughout the United States also require gender neutral restrooms. 

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Florida's Oldest Gay Rights Law Turns 30

January 16, 2020

Today Florida's oldest gay rights law marks its 30th anniversary.

Thirty years ago, there was not a single law in effect in Florida which provided protection against discrimination for gay men and lesbians.

That changed on January 16, 1990 when Palm Beach County Commissioners voted 4-1 to prohibit discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on a person's sexual orientation.

LGBTQ rights activists celebrate vitory in 1990

The historic gay rights campaign was led by Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council "(PBCHRC") and Jim Swope, President of the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Democratic Club ("ACDC").

Over the years, PBCHRC has been responsible for the enactment of more than 130 local pro-LGBTQ+ laws and policies.

"It was no easy task in 1990 to convince elected officials in Florida - especially Republicans - to openly support gay rights," said Hoch. "There was just too much history."

In 1977, Dade County Commissioners enacted a gay rights law. Shortly thereafter singer Anita Bryant formed Save Our Children ("SOS") which campaigned for a special election to repeal the law.  (FOR A TREAT, PLEASE CLICK ON THE "ANITA BRYANT" LINK)

In 1978, when the votes were counted following a heated and ugly campaign, the law was repealed by a vote of more than 2-1.

There were no further efforts to secure gay rights in Florida until 1989, when gay rights activists in Tampa and in Broward County sought to have their counties' laws amended to protect sexual orientation based on sexual orientation. However, both efforts failed.

After carefully studying the unsuccessful gay rights efforts in Florida, Swope and Hoch came up with a different strategy."

"Our goals were simple. We activated LGBTQ people and our allies and then educated the commissioners," said Swope. "Ultimately, we out-organized our opponents."

In the weeks leading up to the hearing, commissioners received more than 3,000 letters from constituents in support of gay rights. In contrast, there were only 43 opposing the proposed change in the law.

The public hearing, which was intentionally scheduled to fall on the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, lasted more than three hours. More than 100 residents crowded the County Commission Chambers.

Thirty people, including lawyers, educations, REALTORS, two rabbis, a minister and a retired Episcopal bishop spoke in favor of the gay rights law.

Only seventeen people spoke against it.

"We not only had more teachers, we had more preachers," said Hoch, who was the last member of the public to speak before the commissioners deliberated.

"It all comes down to this -- 'Equal Justice Under Law' a concept so American that it is literally carved in stone above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court," Hoch told the commissioners.

When the votes were cast, Democratic County Commissioners Carol Roberts and Carole Phillips voted in favor of the change, as did Republican County Commissioners Carol Elmquist and Karen Marcus.

Commissioner Ron Howard, also a Republican, cast the sole vote against protecting the county's gay men and lesbians.

While the four commissioners who voted to protect the gay and lesbian community were re-elected, Ron Howard was not. And despite several attempts, he never held public office again.

The law, the Palm Beach County Ordinance for Equal Opportunity to Housing and Places of Public Accommodation, has since been amended to prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

President's Message - January 2020

January 2020

Unlike LGBTQ Floridians living in more than 80% of our state's counties, Palm Beach County's LGBTQ residents are protected from discrimination in employment, housing and the full range of public accommodations. (Unfortunately, LGBTQ people living in and visiting the Towns of Juno Beach Lake Park are no longer protected from discrimination in housing and places of public accommodations; however, PBCHRC is working on getting their full civil rights restored in the two towns.)
In addition, Palm Beach County public school students are protected from bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity -- and there are serious consequences for teachers and other school district employees who let bullying and harassment go unreported. 

Moreover, lesbian and gay couples throughout Palm Beach County (regardless of whether they are married) and their children are entitled to many of the same benefits as families based on marriages. 

Furthermore, conversion therapy for minors remains prohibited throughout Palm Beach County.

All of these achievements are the result of the work done by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC), our allies, and most importantly, our supportive public officials.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Senate will not vote in 2020 on the Equality Act passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Moreover, there is no chance that the Competitive Workforce Act will be approved by the Florida Legislature in the 2020 legislative session. 

Therefore, at least for the foreseeable future, LGBTQ Floridians can only rely on counties, school districts and municipalities to protect our rights.


On March 17, 2020, municipal elections will be held in Palm Beach County in conjunction with the Presidential Preference Primaries. 

Last year, PBCHRC Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) endorsed Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor Rachelle Litt and Royal Palm Beach Village Councilwoman Selena Samois. Both were recently re-elected without opposition. 

Other PBCHRC supporters who were elected or re-elected without opposition include Greenacres Mayor Joel Flores, Greenacres City Councilwoman Paula Bousquet, Palm Beach Town Council Member Lew Crampton, Palm Beach Gardens City Councilmember Mark Marciano, Royal Palm Beach Village Mayor Fred Pinto, Wellington Village Council Member Michael Napoleone, and West Palm Beach City Commissioner-Elect Christy Fox. 

Congratulations to all!
PBCHRCVA has also endorsed Palm Beach Shores Mayor Myra Koutzen, as well as West Palm Beach City Commissioners Christina Lambert and Kelly Shoaf in the upcoming municipal elections. 

In February, PBCHRCVA will consider interviewing candidates seeking office in Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Haverhill, Jupiter, Lake Worth Beach, North Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. 

To keep up with the PBCHRCVA endorsements, click here.


Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, filed suit in federal court in West Palm Beach on behalf of two therapists seeking to nullify the bans on conversion therapy for minors enacted by Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton. The lawsuit is virtually identical to one Liberty Counsel filed against the City of Tampa.

Last year, Judge Robin Rosenberg of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied Liberty Counsel's motion for preliminary injunctions which sought to prevent the bans from remaining in effect pending trial. As a result, at least for the time being, young LGBTQ people in Palm Beach County will remain safe from the psychological abuse caused by conversion therapy. 

Having lost, Liberty Counsel has appealed Judge Rosenberg's to the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit. Briefs have been filed and oral argument before the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit is set for February 11, 2020.

Unfortunately, things did not go well in the Tampa lawsuit.

Judge William Jung of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida granted Liberty Counsel's clients motion for a preliminary injunction. Therefore, it remains legal for conversion therapy practitioners in Tampa to continue to "treat" children with "talk therapy" pending a trial. 

Having lost, the City of Tampa has appealed the order to the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit. While the City of Tampa has filed its brief, Liberty Counsel's brief has yet to be filed.

Liberty Counsel's ultimate goal is to have a case concerning conversion therapy bans reach the U. S. Supreme Court. While the Court has repeatedly refused to take up a conversion therapy ban case, times have changed. In light of President Trump's appointment of conservative Associate Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, it is possible that there will be a ruling on the legality conversion therapy bans within the next few years. This does not bode will for LGBTQ you across out nation.


PBCHRC's annual Winter Fête will be held at Villa Fontana in Palm Beach on January 25, 2020.  As always, this popular fundraising event is SOLD OUT!  

PBCHRC thanks Winter Fête Hosts Bill Eberhardt and Todd Hase; VIP Reception Hosts Michael Fowler and David Mittleman; Grand Benefactors Dan Hall, The Law and Mediation Offices of Rand Hoch, P.A., and W. Trent Steele and Douglas B. Andrews; Benefactors Mauricio Busa and Barry Hayes, Congressman Mark Foley, Sandy James Fine Food & Catering, Wood Kinnard and Alberto Arias, and Van Stewart; and Sponsors Alexandria Ayala for School Board, District 2, Altima International, Timothy and Kevin Baird, Lee Bell and Fotios Pantazis, State Senator Lori Berman, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and Shawn N. Bernard, Bill Bone, James A. Bonfiglio, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, Hon. Karen Brill, candidate for County Commission District 5, Castle Wealth Management, David Cohen and Paul Bernabeo, - Exclusive Tours & Luxury Travel. Nicholas Coppola and David Crespo, Cornerstone Solutions, Palm Beach Town Council Member Lew Crampton, Arlen D. Dominek and A. J. Young, Echo, Florida Sugar Cane League Diane Freaney and Sharon Koskoff, Charlie Fredrickson, Edith Friedheim and Peter Cruise, Paul Gervais and Gil Cohen, Howard A. Grossman, MD, Integrity Palm Beach, Richard P. Katzenberg and John F. Betz, West Palm Beach City Commissioner Christina and Monte Lambert, Bruce Langmaid and Charles Poole, Gregg S. Lerman, Sid Lesowitz and Peter Rogers, Palm Beach Gardens Vice Mayor Rachelle Litt and Dr. Jeffrey Litt, Coy Lynch, MBAF Accountants and Advisors, LLC, Dr. Mark Marciano, Mayor Palm Beach Gardens and Dr. Brandee Marciano, Ross Meltzer and Victor Figueredo, West Palm Beach City Commissioner Joseph Peduzzi and Erin Peduzzi, Nancy Proffitt And Susan Reinheimer, Joseph Pubillones Interiors, State Senator Kevin Rader, Richard and Ellen Rampell, Scott Rixford and Jose Mena, Roosters, Michael Rubin and David Kamp, West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kelly Shoaf, Boca Raton City Councilor Andy Thomson, Don Todorich - Corcoran Group R.E, Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney, Donald Watren and Tony Jaggi, James Watson, Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg and Rebecca Weiss, and State Representative Matt Willhite.

Thanks also go out to Todd's for a fantastic Winter Fête Kick-Off reception last October.


The City of Lake Worth Beach adopted an LGBTQ-inclusive resolution affirming its commitment to address and eliminate bullying at city facilities and in city programs

The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation has been established to fund educational scholarships and other charitable endeavors. Our thanks go out to Integrity Palm Beach for their generous donation to the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation.

PBCHRC continues our partnership with the Florida Hate Crime Coalition in support of the Crimes Evidencing Prejudice Act, sponsored by State Senator Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton). If enacted into law, Florida's Hate Crime Act would be amended to include both "gender" and "gender identity" as protected classes. (The current law applies to offenses based on a victim's race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, or advanced age.) Rader's bill would also strengthen the law's protections against the physically disabled. The bill is sponsored in the by State Representative Joe Geller (D-Aventura).
Meredith Ockman has been elected Vice President of PBCHRC and G. Joseph Garcia, Jasmin Lewis, and Tamara Sager have been elected to our Board of Directors.
PBCHRC Board member Michael Fowler has been named Chair of the Palm Beach Tech Association.

Dr. Rachel Needle has been recognized as the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association's Advocate of the Year.

Robert Telford has been reappointed to serve as the Mayor's LGBTQ liaison in West Palm Beach.

At PBCHRC's request, the City of West Palm Beach will designate thirty single-occupancy restrooms at the City Hall complex as "All Gender".

Also at PBCHRC's request, Palm Beach County's Director of Facilities Development & Operations has issued a report recommending that single-occupancy restrooms at County facilities be designated as "All Gender". County Commissioners will consider her recommendation later this year.  

Palm Beach County, the cities of Delray Beach and West Palm Beach, and the Village of Wellington have signed onto the appellate brief filed by the City of Miami Beach in opposition to the decision of an Orange County circuit court judge which nullified that county's LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance.


The Council's current projects include persuading:

  *  Palm Beach County and the City of Boynton Beach to designate all single-occupancy restrooms in municipal buildings as "All-Gender",

  *  the City of West Palm Beach to designate more 100 additional single-occupancy restrooms in other municipal buildings through the city as "All-Gender",

  *  the City of West Palm Beach to install at least one LGBTQ Pride rainbow crosswalk,

  *  the West Palm Beach City Commission to provide at least $10,000 in annual funding to be used for programs for LGBTQ youth and seniors,

  *  the School District of Palm Beach County to cease doing business with Chick-fil-A and other companies that discriminate against LGBTQ people and other minorities,

  *  the Health Care District of Palm Beach County to provide trans-specific healthcare services to indigent patients,

  *  the State of Florida to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression",

  *  the State of Florida to prohibit conversion therapy, and,

  *  all municipalities in Palm Beach County to enact civil rights ordinances which specifically protect rights and benefits based on a person's "sexual orientation" and/or "gender identity or expression.

For more than three decades, 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 informed about our progress.

Judge Rand Hoch (retired),
President and Founder

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

PBCHRC Launches Charitable Foundation

Since 2015, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) has presented Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award scholarships to local college-bound high school seniors. The scholarships are awarded to applicants who have experience in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.  As the scholarships are not need-based, they often are presented to students from financially secure families.

2016 Award Recipient Victor Espidol and Dan Hall

Last summer, PBCHRC was made aware of a gay first-year student at the University of Virginia - one of the nation's top schools. A native of Palm Beach County and a Forest Hill High School graduate, Danny was raised by a single mother who cleaned offices to provide for her three children. Although he grew up within walking distance of CityPlace, Danny never had been there. He never even had been to a movie theater. His mother did not make enough money to provide "extras" for the family.

Although Danny received a "full" scholarship from the University of Virginia, money was tight.  He did not have the money to participate in student activities. As Danny cut back on meals to help make ends meet, his grades suffered. Placed on academic probation, he returned home and took a job to help his family.

When PBCHRC's Board Members learned of Danny's plight, we wanted to find a way to help him and other similarly situated local LGBTQ people.

PBCHRC's accountants advised us to establish a charitable organization that would be exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of Title 26 of the United States Code. (PBCHRC is a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, and as such, is not tax-exempt.)

Therefore, PBCHRC's Board of Directors voted to establish the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation to fund educational scholarships and other charitable endeavors. The Foundation's officers and directors are Carly Cass, Rae Franks, Chauncey Graham, Dan Hall, Rand Hoch, Meredith Ockman and Trent Steele.

Thanks to the generosity of Integrity Palm Beach and a few longtime supporters, the Foundation was funded. The Foundation agreed to make distributions to the University of Virginia to cover Danny's meal plan through his gradution -- as long as he maintained a C average. (To further assist him, Scott Simmons, a longtime PBCHRC supporter, took Danny shopping for clothes so that he could better fit in with his classmates.) This past fall, Danny excelled in his coursework and joined his school's Queer Student Union.

University of Virginia Queer Student Union in action

In October, PBCHRC Board Member Jasmin Lewis, who is also the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) sponsor at Palm Beach Gardens High School, approached the Foundation. She informed us that the GSA students had designed T-shirts to increase visibility on campus.  However, coming from mostly low-income families, they could not afford to have the shirts made and distributed to members. Jasmin also told us that hardly any of the members could afford to pay the GSA dues needed to cover supplies and food for meetings.

Palm Beach Gardens High School Gay Straight Alliance

The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation agreed to contribute $1,000 to cover GSA dues and the cost of the T-shrits for all sixty members. In appreciation, the GSA members made a slight alteration to their T-shirt design by adding the PBCHRC logo on the sleeves.

From now on, all funding for the Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards, as well as our contributions to nonprofit organizations such as the First Amendment FoundationThe National LGBTBar Association and FoundationACLU FloridaSAVELavender Law, and ADL Florida will be made from the Foundation. Other requests for assistance will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

At this time, the Foundation is well funded to meet our expected needs. However, in the future, we may be reaching out for your support.