While Florida’s LGBTQ+ community continues to be challenged on all fronts, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) continues to be up to those challenges.
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."
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 and 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 provider's 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, the courts have temporarily blocked the Medicaid ban on gender-affirming care and the drag performance restrictions from taking effect pending trials in those cases. As for the constitutional challenges brought by students, parents, and teachers in federal court to the “Don’t Say Gay” law, the federal trial courts have repeatedly refused to allow the case to move forward. The case is now before the very conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. However, in September, after the parties announced they were in settlement negotiations, the court issued a stay on litigation. We will keep you posted on the progress of the litigation.
PBCHRC continues to concentrate on Palm Beach County and our local. municipalities to expand and protect our rights. Our work never stops.
CONVERSION THERAPY BANS
In Otto and Hamilton v. City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County, the very conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the conversion therapy bans PBCHRC worked diligently to enact were unconstitutional. That ruling is contrary to every other federal appellate ruling on conversion therapy bans in the nation – including Tingley v. Ferguson, a case brought in the state of Washington. In Tingley, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the U.S. Constitution does allow states to enact laws to protect youth from the harms of conversion therapy by licensed therapists
As a result of this conflict in rulings, in May, anti-LGBTQ+ organizations backing the Washington State conversion therapists asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their case to determine whether state and local governments can continue to enact laws to protect children from the harms cause by conversion therapy. We will keep you posted.
LAKE WORTH BEACH
NOW A SANCTUARY CITY
FOR LGBTQ+ PEOPLE
On September 5, 2023, Lake Worth Beach became the first city in Florida adopt a resolution declaring the city a sanctuary city for LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families. The resolution, brought forward by Mayor Betty Resch at PBCHRC’s request, was adopted by a unanimous vote of the City Commission.
PALM BEACH COUNTY SCHOOLS REVERSE BANS
ON LGBTQ+ LIBRARY BOOKS
In September, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody determined that the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” laws do not apply to books in public school libraries, since the laws specifically refer to classroom instruction – not library content. Within days, the Palm Beach County School District policies were modified to allow for previously banned books to be returned to library shelves.
SCHOOL BOARD TO RECOGNIZE LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH
Despite the existence of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” laws and pressure from anti-LGBTQ+ activists, the School Board of Palm Beach County will continue to recognize LGBTQ+ History Month by issuing a proclamation at the October 18, 2023 school board meeting. Thanks go out to local public school teachers and educational advocates for their advocacy at the School Board meeting in mid-September.
FLORIDA’S FIRST SCHOOL NAMED IN HONOR OF OPENLY GAY MAN
Classes began in August at the Dr. Joaquín García High School in Palm Beach County, which is named after an openly gay veterinarian and educational advocate who died in 2021. Dr. García was a founding member of the board of Directors of Compass LGBTQ Community Center of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches and did extensive volunteer work for the International AIDS Education Foundation and the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County. He encouraged the development of scholarship programs, advocated for dual-language learning, and supported efforts to make our schools more accepting of LGBTQ+ students.
The school is one of a handful of public schools nationwide named after LGBTQ+ people such as San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, civil rights advocate Bayard Rustin, poet Walt Whitman, and astronaut Sally Ride..
2024 WINTER FÊTE HOST COMMITTEE
PBCHRC's 2024 Winter Fête will be held on Saturday, January 13, 2024, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the home of Sarah and Melissa Hassan. Their fabulous central Boca Raton property is in a community ranked among the top ten exclusive gated communities in the United States by Forbes.
While individual tickets are not yet available, we are in the process of putting together a Host Committee to help underwrite the event and PBCHRC’s projects. For a $1,000 contribution, Host Committee Members will receive two tickets to the Winter Fête and listings in all event related materials. As of November 23, 2023, the Host Committee includes:
Altima Palm Beach
Alexandria Ayala and Rob Long
Paul Bernabeo and David Cohen
Mack and Shawn Bernard
James Berwind and Kevin Clark
Pamela Buchmeyer and Shellie Crandall
Castle Wealth Management
Gil Cohen and Paul Gervais
Compass LGBTQ+ Community Center
Peter Conn, Jr. and Oscar Garza
John David Corey and Miguel Rosales
David Crespo and Nicholas Coppola
Joseph Paul Davis
Mark Foley and Ryan Ruark
Charles and Michael Freeman-Grattendick
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Palm Beach County
Sarah and Melissa Hassan
Elaine Johnson James
Keith and Lorna James
Bill Jennings and Richard Triggs
Michael Judd and Ben Small
Richard Katzenberg and John Betz
Christina and Monte Lambert
Rachelle and Jeffrey Litt
Joseph Marino, Jr. and Anthony Sibilia
David Mooney and Philip Bianco
Greg & Jessica Ransom
Joe and Erin Peduzzi
Paula Ryan and Clifford Hertz
SandyJames Fine Food & Productions
Jill Sasso & Roe Manghisi
Jeff Sophir and Jim Gielda
Eric Telchin and Logan Nolting
Scott Velozo and Stephen Mooney
Dr. Donald Watren and Anthony Jaggi
Gregg and Rebecca Weiss
Thanks go out to all Host Committee Members!
To join PBCHRC’s 2024 Winter Fête. Host Committee, click here.
PBCHRC CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
In addition to the Foundation’s annual Social Justice Awards, the Charitable Foundation has 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 PBCHRC@gmail.com for further information.
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 www.pbcelections.org/Voters/Vote-By-Mail, In the alternative, you may request to vote by mail:
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.)
CONGRATULATIONS GO OUT TO ...
PBCHRC Co-Treasurer Gemma Torcivia and her wife Kate McMahon on the birth of their daughter Rowan. Their family also includes big brother Jack (age 2) and big sister Finley (age 3).
Jasmin Lewis, PBCHRC Board Member and Chair of PBCHRC's Social Justice Awards Committee, on her promotion to Literacy Coach in Broward County Schools.
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.
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
A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE WITHIN THE STATE. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE. PBCHRC'S Registration Number is CH46486. To obtain registration information, you may consult the website or call 800-43
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.