PBC Human Rights Council to Celebrate 25 Years

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Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has been working with the sole purpose of changing laws and policies to provide equal treatment and equal benefits for the local LGBT community.  The group’s silver anniversary will be celebrated on November 19 at The Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach.

Thanks to West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, November 19, 2013 has been proclaimed as Palm Beach County Human Right’s Council Day in WPB. Ross W. W. Meltzer and Victor M. Figueredo will chair the festivities at the Four Seasons.

“It has been an exceptional year,” said Figueredo, “we are happy to be celebrating the efforts for our county as well as national milestones.”

This year, there is a lot to celebrate.  Nationally, the reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the IRS allowing federal tax returns for LGBT couples provided dramatic progress. Locally, the advancements continue with both Boca Raton and the town of Palm Beach voting to extend the full range of domestic partnership benefits to its municipal employees. In addition, Palm Beach Gardens City Council voted unanimously to offer health insurance benefits to municipal employees' domestic partners and their dependent children.

For 25 years, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has worked diligently with public officials to successfully enact more than 60 local laws and policies that provide equal protection and benefits to Palm Beach County’s LGBT community.  The group has played a visible role in local politics – from early in its existence. In 1990, it helped pave the way for a fair housing ordinance that protected LGB residents, the oldest gay rights law on the books in Florida.

If You Go:

What: Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Anniversary

Where: The Four Seasons, Palm BeachWhen: November 19, 2013 6-9 p.m.

For ticket information, go to: www.pbchrc.org/events.html.

A Timeline of Gay Rights in Palm Beach County

1988 - The PBC Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is founded to work towards ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

1989 - The PBC Human Rights Council begins an educational campaign on bias against gay men and lesbians in housing in PBC.

1990 - PBC amends it’s Fair Housing Ordinance to protect LBT individuals from discrimination in housing, financing for housing, and in public accommodations. (The law is the oldest gay rights law currently in effect in Florida). PBC becomes the first public employer in Florida to amend the County's Affirmative Action Plan to protect gay and lesbian county employees from discrimination in hiring and employment. PBC Anti-Violence Project is established by the PBCHRC to work with law enforcement and the LGBT community to combat an increase in gay bashing in the county. West Palm Beach includes LGBT issues in its diversity training for law enforcement officers and other municipal employees.

1991 - West Palm becomes the first public employer in Florida to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment.

West Palm reverses an initial denial by the Zoning Board of a license for The Backdoor Bookstore, a lesbian owned business geared to the LGBT community.  The short-lived bookstore becomes the unofficial LGBT community center in the county. West Palm, Boynton Beach and Riviera Beach adopt a policy prohibiting the use of any public funds for organizations or facilities, which discriminate on the basis of several protected classes, including sexual orientation.

1992 - West Palm becomes the first public employer in Florida to provide domestic partnership benefits for municipal employees. Compass, the successor of the Stop AIDS Project, is formed as the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Palm Beaches. The first PrideFest is held at the Armory Center in West Palm.

1994 - West Palm enacts an Equal Opportunity Ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation.

1995 - Voters in West Palm overwhelmingly reject the effort to repeal the Equal Opportunity Ordinance by a margin of 56 percent to 43 percent.  West Palm becomes the first jurisdiction in Florida to withstand a repeal effort by popular vote.

1996 - Lake Park enacts an Equal Opportunity/Minority and Women Business Enterprises Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

1999 - Atlantis adds sexual orientation to its Police Department’s Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace Policy.

2000 - John L. Stryker, part-time Palm Beacher and philanthropist, establishes the Arcus Foundation, the world's leading foundation funding organizations worldwide working to advance LGBT equality.

2002 - The PBC Sheriffs' Office offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The PBC Board of County Commissioners amends the County's Equal Employment Ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation.

2003 - West Palm extends lifetime health insurance benefits to the surviving domestic partner of any city employee killed in the line of duty. The PBC School Board adopts a policy to protect students against harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. Lake Worth amends the city's Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

2004 - The Office of the Clerk and Comptroller offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The Office of the Supervisor of Elections becomes the first local public employer to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression. The Port of Palm Beach offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners.

Lake Worth offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The PBC Property Appraiser offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners.

2005 - West Palm Beach establishes a Domestic Partnership Registry. The Pride Business Alliance, a local gay chamber of commerce, is established. Belle Glade adds sexual orientation to its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy.

2006 – Belle Glade enacts a Special Event Permit Ordinance specifically prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation or gender related grounds.” PBC offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The School District of PBC offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The Office of the Supervisor of Elections offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The Office of the Tax Collector revises its non-discrimination policy to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Office of the Tax Collector offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. PBC establishes a Domestic Partnership Registry. Delray Beach offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The PBC School Board adopts a Commercial Nondiscrimination

Policy, which prohibits the School District from doing business with firms, which discriminate on the basis sexual orientation. The Board of Trustees of Florida Atlantic University trustees adopts an Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Regulation covering all classes protected by law, which protect LBT individuals at FAU's Palm Beach and Broward campuses but not their northern campuses. West Palm extends health insurance continuation coverage (COBRA) to city employees with domestic partners. Palm Tran offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners.

2007- West Palm amends its Equal Opportunity Ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation. Lake Worth amends the city's Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Jupiter, the Health Care District of PBC and the Solid Waste Authority offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners.

Juno Beach revises its non-discrimination and harassment awareness policies to include sexual orientation and revises the definition of "immediate family" with regard to bereavement leave to include an employee's "significant other." Hypoluxo and the Solid Waste Authority add sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy. The PBC Sheriff’s Office adds sexual orientation and marital status to its nondiscrimination policy. family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners.

PBC amends its Equal Employment Ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

Tequesta enacts comprehensive policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Royal Palm Beach amends its Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and its Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policy to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The PBC Bar Association adopts and LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination policy, becoming the first County bar association in Florida to do so. Palm Beach Gardens City Council implements basic domestic partner benefits for city employees.

2008 - Palm Beach Community College offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The PBC School Board expands the definition of "family" in the School District's Leave of Absence policy to include employees' domestic partners and their children. The PBC School Board includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes in a comprehensive policy protecting students against bullying and harassment.

BLAST (Bi, Lesbian and Straight Together) Women of West Palm Beach is founded. The PBC Office of Equal Opportunity rules that the School District has discriminated against employees with domestic partners by charging them higher health insurance premiums than married couples must pay.

2009 - The PBC Children's Services Council offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. Susan Stanton, a transsexual woman is hired to serve Lake Worth City Manager. The School District of PBC includes the children of employees' domestic partners as eligible dependents for health insurance coverage.

2010 - The PBC School Board revises the District’s nondiscrimination policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Wellington plays host to the world's first international gay polo tournament.

2011 - Wellington offers family health insurance coverage for employees with domestic partners. The city also amends their non-discrimination policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Boca Raton City Council unanimously votes to opt-out of the PBC Equal Employment Ordinance, leaving LGBT workers’ in Boca Raton with no legal recourse in cases of employment discrimination. The Office of the State Attorney revises its Harassment Policy to include gender identity or expression.

Palm Beach County, the City of West Palm, the Office of the State Attorney and the Office of the Public Defender revise their respective Family Medical Leave Policies to provide the same benefits to families based on domestic partnerships as are provided to families based on legally recognized marriages.

The Board of Trustees of Florida Atlantic University adds sexual orientation to the school’s Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Regulation.

2012 - Delray Beach and the county Office of the Clerk and Comptroller revise their Family Medical Leave Policy to provide the same benefits to families based on domestic partnerships as are provided to families based on legally recognized marriages. PBC amends its non-discrimination in Contracting Policy to include gender identity or expression. The West Palm Beach Housing Authority adds gender identity or expression to its nondiscrimination policy.

2013 – Palm Beach County, the City of West Palm Beach, Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits, and Constitutional Tax Collector Anne Gannon all implement a tax equity policy to offset the additional federal income taxes which is assessed on employees whose domestic partners receive health insurance through their employers.

The Town of South Palm Beach adds “sexual orientation” and “any other legally protected status” to the Town’s nondiscrimination statement.

The PBC Solid Waste Authority adds gender identity or expression to its nondiscrimination policy. The City of Delray Beach updates its policy against discrimination, harassment and bullying to include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression.”

Florida Atlantic University offers a domestic partnership stipend to university employees and allows employees to use sick leave to care for their domestic partners. The Palm Beach Town Council votes to implement the full range of domestic partnership benefits for Town employees.

The City of Boca Raton amends its personnel rules and regulations to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The City of Boca Raton extends the jurisdiction of the Community Relations Board to include the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. The City of Boca Raton extends the full range of domestic partnership benefits to its municipal employees.

The City of Palm Beach Gardens offers full domestic partnership health insurance benefits to its municipal employees.

BOARD MEMBERS

hoch

Rand Hoch, President and Founder

Rand Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council in 1988 and served as the organization's President until 1992. Rand resumed his service on the Board of Directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council in 2002 and was again elected president in 2006.

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Jessica Blackman

Ms. Blackman is currently a member of the Florida Bar, Young Lawyers and the Workers' Compensation Section. She is also an active member of the Palm Beach County Bar Association and an Executive Board Member of its Young Lawyers Section, as well as being on the Board of Directors for the Treasure Coast section of the Friends of 440 Scholarship Fund and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Counsel.

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Dan Hall

Treasurer Dan Hall is an attorney, and runs a financial counseling company. He has three grown children and lives in West Palm Beach.

Rae FranksRae Franks has practiced law in West Palm Beach since 1985. As a board member of the Human Rights Council, Rae became actively involved with the drafting of the City of West Palm Beach's Human Rights Ordinance, and its subsequent winning battle in the court and in the referendum challenge. Rae is currently the Chair of the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity/Fair Housing Board, a member of the City of West Palm Beach Zoning Appeals Board, and Secretary of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.6014069

Peter Cava

Peter Cava is an adjunct instructor in Florida Atlantic University’s Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. As an instructor, Peter developed FAU’s first course in Transgender Studies. Peter is also a Ph.D. candidate in FAU’s Public Intellectuals Program (with a concentration in Feminism, Gender and Sexuality) and the treasurer of FAU’s Women’s Studies Graduate Student Association.

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Jamie Foreman

Jamie Todd Foreman relocated to Palm Beach County in 1997 to serve a three-year term as staff attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He is currently an attorney and legal research consultant for West Group and resides in College Park.

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Matthew McWatters

Matthew McWatters has served as Secretary of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party from 2006-2008, as well as Vice President of the Palm Beach County Young Democrats from 2005-2009 and President from 2009-2011. Matthew currently serves as Legislative Director of Palm Beach County National Organization for Women, of which he was elected in 2011. Matthew lives in North Palm Beach with his partner, Jeff, their dog, Bella, and their two cats, Laertes and Ophelia.

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James Paul Sasser

J.P., a second generation Florida Cracker, and served as the Mayor of the City of Pahokee.  He was first elected to office in 2002.

W. Trent Steele

W. Trent Steele has been practicing law for over 25 years and specializes in health care law, residential and commercial real estate law, estate planning and probate, and business law.

He serves as an officer, board member or member of various business, professional, charitable and educational organizations, including: the Palm Beach County Bar Association; the Martin County Bar Association; the Florida Bar; VSA Arts of Florida, 1992-2003; Comprehensive AIDS Program of Palm Beach County, 1986-2000; Florida Stage, 1994-2000; Town of Palm Beach Code Enforcement Board, 1994-1996.

In addition, as President of the Board of FoundCare since 2004, he has dedicated himself to meeting the healthcare needs of the medically underserved and uninsured residents of Palm Beach County. Denise Royal


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