Saturday, July 15, 2023


While Florida’s LGBTQ+ community is being challenged on all fronts, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) continues to be up to the challenge. 

Founded in 1988, 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. 

In the thirty-five years since PBCHRC was founded, we have been responsible for the enactment of more than 150 laws and policies which now provide equal rights, protections and benefits for the LGBTQ+ community. For a list of the laws and policies enacted as the result of PBCHRC’s efforts, click here and select "Laws & Policies." 

Frankly, back in the 1980s, I optimistically thought there would no longer be a need for our organization in the 21st century. I assumed that by the turn of the century, our community nationwide would be protected by federal civil rights laws. (Back then, I did not envision marriage equality even becoming an issue, let alone reality.). However, for all the progress made over the past three decades, Florida’s LGBTQ+ community continues to be targeted by Governor DeSantis and the Republican controlled state legislature. Since 2021, Governor DeSantis has signed into law: 
  • The “Don’t Say Gay” law – and an expansion of the law– prohibiting classroom discussion of LGBTQ+ matters in public schools grades kindergarten through 8th grade, 
  • A law permitting healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people by refusing to provide healthcare services that conflict with the providers chosen religious, ethical, or moral beliefs, 
  • Restrictions on gender affirming care, including banning Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care for young people and adults, 
  • Requirements for people to use gender-designated restrooms in public facilities based on the gender assigned at birth – not their gender identities, 
  • A ban on trans female students from playing on public school teams intended for athletes designated female at birth, and 
  • Restrictions on drag performances. 
Fortunately, our courts have temporarily blocked the Medicaid ban on gender-affirming care and the drag performance restrictions from taking effect pending trials in those cases. Unfortunately, federal trial courts have not allowed constitutional challenges to the “Don’t Say Gay” law to move forward and the issue is now before the very conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit– the only federal court in the nation to strike down conversion therapy bans. 

So, PBCHRC continues to concentrate on Palm Beach County and our local. municipalities to expand and protect our rights. Our work never stops. 

2023 Social Justice Award 
In April, the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation selected Richeley Cajuste to receive our 2023 Social Justice Award. The award is presented annually to a college-bound graduating senior who has demonstrated an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. Richeley will receive a $2,500 scholarship. 

Haitian-born Richeley, who emigrated to the U.S. in 2016, lives in West Palm Beach and graduated from Palm Beach Lakes Community High School. At school, through his participation in Rainbow RAMS, he advocated for LGBTQ+ and social justice issues. He hopes to establish a chapter of the organization at Palm Beach State College, where he will be in the pre-med program, studying health sciences and biology. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he plans to graduate from medical school and open a medical practice to help underserved communities. 

 Norman L Stern and August R. Venezio Scholarships 

Longtime Boynton Beach residents Norm Stern and Auggie Venezio passed away last year, having spent close to 67 years together as a couple, When planning their estates, they made unrestricted bequests to PBCHRC and several other LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. In recognition of their relationship with and commitment to our community, the Charitable Foundation Board established the Norman L. Stern and August R. Venezio Scholarship. 

The first recipient is Michael Thayer, a West Palm Beach native, a longtime PBCHRC volunteer. He received his B.A. from the University of Maine, summa cum laude, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest academic honor society in the United States. He also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. 

Now residing in New York City with his partner, Michael works for a entertainment law firm and serves as a volunteer counselor at Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ+ young people. In the fall, Michael will begin his studies for a second Master's degree at Columbia University's School of Social Work, so that he may carry out his work on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth. The Foundation will be providing Michael with a $2,500 scholarship per semester. 

W. Trent Steele Legal Advocacy Award 

The Charitable Foundation has also established the W. Trent Steele Legal Advocacy Award in recognition of Trent’s decades of pro bono work on behalf of PBCHRC as well as his work as a PBCHRC Board Member. The scholarship is available to LGBTQ+ and allied second and third year law students with ties to Palm Beach County. Please contact for further information.

Recent Charitable Foundation Contributions 

So far this year, PBCHRC and the Charitable Foundation have made significant contributions to: 
  • ACLU of Florida Foundation, which works to create a Florida free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, 
  • First Amendment Foundation, which watched over a legislative program to review, and reenact if warranted, each of the hundreds of exemptions to Florida's public records law. 
  • Lambda Legal, a national legal organization representing LGBTQ+ people and everyone living with HIV in court – and in the court of public opinion. 
  • MAP (the Movement Advancement Project), a nonprofit think tank working to create a thriving, inclusive, and equitable America where all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life. 
  • PRISM, which works to expand access to LGBTQ+-inclusive education and sexual health resources for youth in South Florida, 
  • Stonewall National Museum & Archives, which presents exhibitions on LGBTQIA+ themes and public programs in South Florida and across the United States, and, 
  • Vita Nova, which is a safe bridge to independence for former foster care, LGBTQ+ and other homeless local youth through supportive housing, education, employment and life. 

Our success in enacting pro-LGBTQ+ laws is directly related to our community’s participation in electoral politics. 

Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance (PBCHRCVA) members — all volunteers — 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. We have done this to educate public officials, make endorsements and take action to elect people who will take steps to change laws and policies to provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the local LGBTQ community 

Municipal elections will be held throughout Palm Beach County on March 19, 2024 – the same day as the Presidential Preference Primaries. In additional, federal, county and state Primary Elections will be held in August 20, 2024 with the General Election on November 6, 2024. 

We have a lot of work to do. 

To date, PBCHRC has made the following endorsements: 

U.S. Representative (Dist. 22) - Lois Frankel

Constitutional Tax Collector - Anne Gannon

Sheriff - Ric Bradshaw

State Attorney - Gregg Lerman

State Representative (Dist. 90) - Joe Casello

State Representative (Dist. 92) - Kelly Skidmore

State Representative (Dist. 93) - Katherine Waldron

State Representative (Dist. 94) - Rochelle Litt

Boca Raton City Council (Seat D) - Andrew Thomson

Delray Beach Mayor - Ryan Boylston

Delray Beach City Commissioner (Seat 3) - Nicholas Coppola

Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner (Dist. 1) - Sarah Malega

Wellington Mayor - Michael Napoleone

For a list of more than 60 elected officials who were endorsed by PBCHRCVA and who currently hold office, click here
In an effort to suppress the vote, the Florida Legislature enacted a law causing Vote-by-Mail requests to expire at the end of the year in which a General Election is held. If you have not taken action, your vote-by-mail ballot request expired last year. If you want to continue voting by mail in 2023 and 2024, you need to complete a new Vote-by -Mail ballot request. You may do this online easily at, In the alternative, you may request to vote-by-mail: 
  • By Phone: (561) 656-6208 
  • By Email: 
  • By Fax: (561) 656-6230 
  • In person at any Office of the Supervisor of Elections 
The vote-by-mail request must include your driver's license/Florida State ID number OR the last 4 digits of your social security number, whichever you provided when you registered to vote. (If you do not remember which you used, PBCHRC recommends you provide both numbers to ensure your vote by mail application can be processed.) 


PBCHRC is currently working to persuade: 
  • The local courts, prosecutors and public defenders to utilize the appropriate pronouns when addressing trans people with business before the courts, 
  • The Health Care District of Palm Beach County to provide trans-specific healthcare services to indigent patients, and 
  • 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. 
Finally, congratulations to longtime PBCHRC Board Member Chauncey Graham upon his graduation from Atlanta's John Marshall Law School, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the school's law review. We are so proud! 

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. 

Judge Rand Hoch (retired), 
President and Founder