The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is Florida’s oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. We promote equality through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation and community outreach.
Since 1988, PBCHRC has been responsible for the enactment of more than 160 laws and policies providing equal rights, protections and benefits for the LGBTQ community. Our work never stops. Even during the pandemic, we were responsible for the enactment of seven new LGBTQ-inclusive municipal civil rights ordinances in Palm Beach County. For a list of the laws and policies enacted as the result of PBCHRC’s efforts, click here.
Our success in enacting pro-LGBTQ laws is directly related to our community’s participation in electoral politics. Over the years, PBCHRC’s leaders have conducted close to 1,000 face-to-face endorsement interviews — and close to 100 interviews via Zoom and phone — of candidates seeking public office. For a list of more than 90 elected officials endorsed by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance currently holding office, click here.
Each year, we bestow Daniel S. Hall Public Social Justice Award scholarships in recognition of the achievements LGBTQ and allied high school seniors have made on behalf of our community,
To review the biographies of the 17 Daniel S. Hall Public Social Justice Award recipients and to learn more about the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation, click here. The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation also provides need-based scholarships to LGBTQ college students. This summer, the Foundation’s Board of Directors voted to establish the W. Trent Steele Legal Advocacy Awards for second- and third-year law students.
PRIDE IS BUSTING OUT ALL OVER
To mark the beginning of LGBTQ Pride Month, the Nancy Graham Centennial Fountain and Square were illuminated in Progress Pride colors on June 1. The inspiring display was repeated on June 28 to commemorate the anniversaries of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre and the Stonewall Uprising. Thanks go out to Hierromat Development and Creative Arts Enterprises for underwriting and producing these events.
Palm Tran rolled out a “Ride with Pride” bus wrapped in the 11 colors of the Progress Pride flag. Throughout June, Palm Tran’s bus operated along the most visible route in Palm Beach County, running along U.S. Highway 1 from Palm Beach Gardens to Boca Raton.
Three permanent public LGBTQ art installations in Palm Beach County were dedicated in June. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on June 3 for the Pride Crosswalks in West Palm Beach’s Northwood Village. On June 7, the Progress Pride Flag Intersection was dedicated in Boynton Beach and on June 8, the City of Delray Beach celebrated the dedication of its Progress Pride Intersection with a full day of festivities."
Unfortunately, by June 15, the Delray Beach streetscape had been vandalized. Thanks to the excellent work of the Delray Beach Police Department, on June 17, Alexander Jerich was arrested for using his truck to “burnout” the intersection. To watch a video of Jerich's crime, click here.
The police charged Jerich with criminal mischief, reckless driving and evidence of prejudice based on sexual orientation — a hate crime. Jerich, who faces felony charges, has retained a private attorney and is currently out jail on bond.
PBCHRC has asked State Attorney Dave Aronberg to consider filing an additional charge under the state’s recently enacted “Combatting Public Disorder Act.” If convicted under this law, Jerich would have to reimburse the City of Delray Beach for the cost of restoring the streetscape.
PBCHRC’S PRIDE HAPPY HOUR AT MEAT MARKET PALM BEACH
On June 28, more than 100 PBCHRC supporters celebrated at our annual Pride Happy Hour at Meat Market Palm Beach. The restaurant donated 10% of attendees’ dinner proceeds to PBCHRC and held a business card drawing for a Meat Market gift certificate. Thanks go out to Meat Market and Maribel Alvarez of Altima Palm Beach for sponsoring and producing the event. To view the Pride Happy Hour photos, click here.
PAJARO PRIDE WALL PROJECT RECEPTION AND AUCTION
Earlier this year, local artist and activist Rolando Chang Barrero asked dozens of artists, friends, allies, and community leaders to donate embellished works of art on a woodcuts of his Pajaro design to create a cornucopia of styles, vision and color exemplifying the diversity and intersectionality of the LGBTQ community. The works were on display throughout Pride Month at the Office of the Consul General of Mexico in Miami.
From 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, there will be a reception and auction of many of the artworks at The Box Gallery, at 811 Belvedere Road in West Palm Beach. A portion of the auction proceeds will be donated to PBCHRC and SAVE. For more information and to RSVP to attend the event, please click here.
DANIEL S. HALL SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARDS
Daniel S. Hall and Ekko Greenbaum
Throughout May, the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation presented Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Awards to Ekko Greenbaum of Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, Sol Lima of Jupiter Community High School, and Vanessa Whittle of Royal Palm Beach High School. Each student received a $2,500 college scholarship for their advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
If you would like to donate to the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation, checks may be sent to P.O. Box 267, West Palm Beach, Florida 33402. Since the Foundation was established in accordance with Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, your contributions may be tax deductible.
CONVERSION THERAPY BAN COURT CHALLENGE
In October 2018, Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, filed suit in federal court on behalf of two local therapists seeking to nullify the bans on conversion therapy for minors enacted by Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton. However, in February 2019, 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.
Having lost, Liberty Counsel immediately appealed the order to the U.S. District Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit and in November 2020, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the ordinances were unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. The City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County immediately filed a Joint Petition for Rehearing by the full Eleventh Circuit. To date, the Eleventh Circuit has not ruled on the Joint Petition. Fortunately, since the Eleventh Circuit has yet to issue a mandate, the panel’s decision has yet to take effect. PBCHRC will continue to keep you informed.
THE WINTER FÊTE
Photo by Gail Haines
On April 10, more than 200 people attended the 2021 “Winter” Fête at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in West Palm Beach. Thanks to the generosity of an incredible group of donors, this was our most successful fundraising event in PBCHRC’s 33-year history. To view photos of the event taken by Gail Haines, click here (www.pbchrc.org/events)
PBCHRC will hold our next Winter Fête at a private home in Palm Beach on Saturday evening, January 15, 2022. Details to follow.
Palm Beach County Commissioners establish an Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The School District of Palm Beach County requires public schools to require gender-neutral caps and gowns for graduations.
Sean Conklin, Rae Franks and Meredith Ockman were elected to four-year terms on the Board of Directors of the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation.
PBCHRC is currently working to persuade:
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County to provide trans-specific healthcare services to indigent patients.
The School District of Palm Beach County to adopt a resolution opposing conversion therapy on students.
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 State of Florida to enact a law to prohibit discrimination based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression."
The State of Florida to enact a law banning conversion therapy.
The State of Florida to amend Florida’s Hate Crime law to specifically include crimes based on an individual's "gender" 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. As always, we will keep you posted on our progress.
The felony and misdemeanor charges were announced in court Thursday morning; the Delray Beach Police Department had originally charged Alexander Jerich with a hate crime.
A plea hearing is scheduled for Sept. 13.
“Everyone who was part of this case was disturbed by the defendant’s conduct and as prosecutors we have to file charges based on the law and the law has some gaps in it,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press conference. “We don’t want to violate our oaths as prosecutors and we don’t want to jeopardize the case by charging inappropriately.”
Jerich, 21, was arrested on June 17 after a video surfaced online of him burning out over the intersection, leaving behind large skidmarks. The intersection had only been dedicated two days prior. A witness also came forward to police, who explained that they were gathered to celebrate former President Donald Trump’s birthday and were driving through the city as a part of the festivities. However, when they reached the intersection, someone yelled out, “Adam, tear up that gay intersection.” Jerich, or “Adam,” was picked out of a lineup by the witness; he said he came forward “not only as a community member but as a gay man.”
Aronberg explained that his office had looked into charging Jerich with a hate crime, but that it did not meet one of the requirements of the law. He said that the victim in this case was the city of Delray Beach, which does not have a sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I encourage the state legislature to review this area of the law to allow local government to be a victim in a crime that evidences prejudice so that prosecutors can utilize the hate crime enhancer in cases like this,” he said.
The state attorney’s office also looked into charging him under Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new Combating Public Disorder statute, but Aronberg said that the case did not meet the requirement of the memorial honoring or recounting “the past or public service of a Florida or United States resident.”
“The streetscape itself names no specific individuals or groups with any memorial signs or plaques and does not specifically recognize or acknowledge any individuals' past or present, which makes it different from the examples of memorials listed in the statute,” he said.
The police report states that the cost of street space was $16,720, paid for with private money, and the city is working with the vendor to have the intersection repainted. Richard Clausi, Jr., assistant state attorney, said that the cost to fix it has been estimated around $8,000.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) released a statement denouncing the office’s charges.
"Although I was not surprised that State Attorney Dave Aronberg shied away from charging Alexander Jerich under the new Combating Public Disorder Act, I was shocked that he refused to seek enhanced penalties under Florida's hate crimes law,” wrote Rand Hoch, the president of the PBCHRC.
“If surveillance cameras caught someone carving anti-Semitic slurs in the sidewalk in front of a store owned by a Jewish person in Delray Beach, don't you think State Attorney Aronberg would charge the person with a hate crime?”
During his press conference, Aronberg said he imagines that moving forward, how memorials are done and honored will be changed in order to protect them from vandals in the future.
“Make no mistake, we are appalled by the defendant’s actions. Hate has no place in our community and we intend to hold the defendant accountable for his crimes,” Aronberg said. “Any punishment must also include restitution that will pay for the Pride streetscape to be fully restored to its original form.”
Alexander Jerich, 20, of Delray Beach, has been charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving. Jerich turned himself into police after allegedly defacing a gay pride intersection in Delray Beach. (Delray Beach Police Department/Courtesy)
Alexander Jerich already got two breaks. He should not get another.
Jerich is the 20-year-old child who used his truck to deface Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride streetscape painting. It happened on June 14, as Jerich participated in a birthday rally for Donald Trump that began at Delray Marketplace and went to the downtown intersection.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Jerich gunned his truck and intentionally skidded it. His vandalism left 15-foot tire marks on the streetscape that the city had dedicated two days earlier.
Jerich faces one felony charge of criminal mischief and one misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. Combined, the charges carry a maximum of six years in prison. But he could have been facing much more time.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg declined to charge Jerich with a hate crime. Aronberg also declined to charge Jerich under the state’s new “anti-riot” law, which prohibits damage to a monument.
Under Florida law, the hate-crime statute calls for enhanced charges. The standard applies when a defendant “evidences prejudice based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status or advanced age of the victim.”
Anti-LGBTQ prejudice clearly motivated Jerich. Another driver in the parade called for him to “tear up that gay intersection.”
Aronberg, however, said the law requires “that the defendant select a specific victim based on sexual orientation.” Because the city owns the streetscape, Aronberg said in a statement, “the city is the named victim. Since a city has no sexual orientation, the state’s hate crime enhancement law cannot apply.”
Yet Delray Beach police investigators believed that Jerich committed a hate crime. Jerich, they wrote, “had reason to know or perceive” that Delray Beach “is an ally to the LGBTQ community” and “intentionally selected” the streetscape to vandalize “because of that perception or knowledge.”
If Aronberg had applied the hate-crime law, Jerich would not be facing a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years. He would be facing a second-degree felony with a maximum of 15 years.
Rand Hoch is founder and former president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. Hoch told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that he is “not too thrilled” with Aronberg’s decision.
What if, Hoch said, someone painted swastikas on the window of a kosher meat market in Delray Beach? What if the vandal added anti-Semitic graffiti? There would be no “specific victim,” but wouldn’t that qualify as a hate crime?
Aronberg made a judgment call. He probably decided that the charges he filed were the charges on which he believed that he could secure a conviction. If that’s the case, Aronberg should be tough from here.
A plea conference is scheduled for Sept. 13. Last week’s hearing lasted three minutes. Jerich’s attorney says his client regrets his actions and wants to move on.
Not so fast.
Having lost the battle on enhanced charges, Hoch wants Jerich to do time. If that happens, he said, “Justice will have been done.”
We agree. The probable cause affidavit makes clear that Jerich is guilty. There’s video evidence. Jerich’s attorney essentially admitted that his client did it.
So while a conviction should not send Jerich to state prison, which means a sentence of more than one year, it should send him to the Palm Beach County Jail. Even if Aronberg did not believe that it qualified as a hate crime, defacing the streetscape was a statement against a segment of the population and a city seeking to make the right statement.
That’s not all. Any plea deal should require Jerich to pay for the damage he caused. The city estimates that it will cost $7,000 to repaint the streetscape. In addition, we also suggest that Jerich receive community service — perhaps for the Human Rights Council.
One might argue that Jerich is a gullible young man who made one stupid decision. In fact, you can’t separate Jerich’s crimes from what’s happening in the wider world.
This year, Florida passed a law banning transgender girls from competing in high school sports. Legislators offered no examples of harm to cisgender girls. The Florida High School Activities Association had a plan to deal with such circumstances.
Instead, the Legislature passed the bill, and Gov. DeSantis signed it. The goal was to stoke imagined grievance. Perhaps that grievance motivated Alexander Jerich.
Aronberg said the Legislature should expand the hate-crime statute to cover cases like Jerich’s. That’s unlikely to happen. Consider the other enhanced charge Aronberg didn’t file.
DeSantis and Republican legislators proposed the “anti-riot” bill after the George Floyd protests last summer and attacks on monuments to Confederate generals and statues of Christopher Columbus.
Yet the GOP hypocrisy showed when Republicans mostly went easy on those who blocked streets to protest for democracy in Cuba. We’ve heard no criticism from them of Jerich for defacing a monument that Hoch said commemorates the LGBTQ anti-discrimination movement since the Stonewall riots in New York 52 years ago.
Aronberg said Delray Beach was the victim. Actually, the victims were the LGBT community and all those who believe in tolerance. Let Jerich contemplate that behind bars.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee.The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney, and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson. Editorials are the opinion of the Board and written by one of its members or a designee. To contact us, email at email@example.com.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg recently decided not to charge Alexander Jerich with a hate crime for intentionally defacing the Delray Beach LGBTQ Pride Intersection. Aronberg’s decision highlights a significant problem with a narrow interpretation of the law.
Florida’s hate crime law requires enhanced penalties when a crime 'evidences prejudice based on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status or advanced age of the victim.'
According to police department’s Probable Cause Affidavit, Jerich’s cohorts directed him to 'tear up that gay intersection.' So, even the perpetrator recognized his 'victim' as gay.
However, Aronberg determined the law required 'the defendant select a specific victim based on sexual orientation…. [and because] a city has no sexual orientation, the state’s hate crime enhancement law cannot apply.'
Having determined the 'victim' was the City of Delray Beach and not the LGBTQ Pride Intersection, Aronberg refused to charge Jerich with a hate crime.
Would Aronberg refuse invoke the hate crimes law if vandals painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs on the sidewalk
in front of a kosher butcher shop? It seems that way.
Aronberg’s narrow interpretation of the law shines a light on the problem: the law may not adequately punish all hate crimes. Therefore, Aronberg must work with the Legislature to ensure the law is amended to address all crimes based on prejudice -- regardless of whether the victim is a person or a public place.
A second law Aronberg refused to use was Florida’s Combatting Public Disorder Act, which provides anyone who 'willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means a memorial…. and the value of the damage to the memorial…. is greater than $200, commits a felony of the third degree…. [and, if convicted, pays] restitution, which shall include the full cost of repair or replacement of such memorial...'
Jerich’s actions, caught on video, demonstrated that each element of the law was met. Had Aronberg secured a felony conviction under this law, Jerich would have been required to reimburse Delray Beach for the cost incurred by the taxpayers to repair the intersection.
Relying only on the remaining charges, Aronberg now must ensure that Jerich is convicted of a felony, serves time behind bars, and reimburses the City of Delray Beach.
Short of that, we will have to question whether justice has been served.
Judge Rand Hoch (ret.), president and founder Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
The Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council is pleased to announce the election of Gemma Torcivia to our board.
Gemma Torcivia is a Palm Beach County native and a graduate of the Communications Department at the A.W. Dreyfoos, Jr., School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Gemma attended the University of Florida where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Women's Studies. She also holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Juris Doctor (JD) from Florida International University.
After college, Gemma served in Teach For America, teaching special education at a Title I high school in inner-city Miami. There she served as the sponsor of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. She also provided operational support for charter and private schools. Gemma then led the City of Homestead's economic development program, developed public-private partnerships, and provided direct support to startup companies and small businesses. She went on to serve as the Executive Director of the Homestead Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) where she managed a $2.5 million budget and helped lead a transformative downtown redevelopment. While working in government, Gemma was involved in the development of over $200 million of construction projects and in a $65 million public private partnership for a transit oriented development.
Moving back to Palm Beach County in 2018, Gemma worked for the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County and as an associate attorney with Roberts, Reynolds, Bedard and Tuzzio in West Palm Beach. She is currently the Managing Partner of TG Law, a West Palm Beach based law firm that focuses on personal injury, business and commercial litigation, land use, and administrative law.
Gemma is devoted to public service and has served for many years as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, advocating for youth in the foster care system. She is active in the Florida Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy Committee. In 2021, she was named as a Fellow in the Florida Bar Wm. Reece Smith Jr. Leadership Academy. Gemma is the 2021/2022 Chair of the Solo and Small Firm Committee for the Palm Beach County Bar, a Treasurer for the Craig S. Barnard American Inn of Court, and a Co-Chair for Constitution Day with the Palm Beach County chapter of Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL). She is committed to increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and she has worked on a number of initiatives with the organizations that she is involved with to ensure that the legal profession reflects the community it serves.
As a native Floridian, Gemma Torcivia is dedicated to ensuring her home state provides equal protections, rights and benefits for the LGBTQ community, women, and minorities.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Inc. is dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The Council promotes equality, through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation, and community outreach.