Should Fort Lauderdale Pass a Non-Discrimination Ordinance?

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Michael Rajner.

Activist Michael Rajner is accusing Fort Lauderdale mayoral candidates Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts and Commissioner Dean Trantalis of not supporting a non-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBT residents.

“Fort Lauderdale Commissioners and mayoral candidates Bruce Roberts and Dean Trantalis have lied and broken their promise to bring forward an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance,” wrote Rajner in a Feb. 6 Twitter post.

On Feb. 7, Rajner, who cited the $1.5 billion that LGBT visitors spent in Fort Lauderdale in 2016, spoke before the Fort Lauderdale Commission and said it’s incumbent upon the city to make a statement in support of the civil rights of all groups.

“We’re worried about the erosion of other rights. It’s unfortunate the city doesn’t have an ordinance itself on non-discrimination that also protects LGBT people. I had thought one would have been coming forward by now and that’s most regrettable.”

At the meeting, Mayor Jack Seiler responded to Rajner and said that Broward County’s non-discrimination ordinance covers the city.

According to the county’s ordinance, “Discrimination because of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, pregnancy and gender expression or identity are unlawful in employment, housing, and public accommodations.” The ordinance also makes it illegal to retaliate against someone for filing charges.

“I think Broward County’s actually encompasses ours, too. That’s one of the reason’s I’ve said we have not created new ordinances. Broward county’s ordinances apply to us. I fully support Broward County’s ordinances and I’ll leave it at that,” Seiler said.

In an interview with SFGN, Trantalis agreed with Seiler.

“I really don’t know what he’s [Rajner’s] talking about. The Broward Ordinance, of which I was co-author and saw the successful passage of, was intended to cover all the cities. We feel we are under the auspices of the county law. He’s not even a Fort Lauderdale resident. He’s trying to interfere in what we do in Fort Lauderdale . . . badmouthing us because we don’t all agree,” Trantalis said.

Rajner doesn’t dispute that the city is already covered. Instead he wants the commission to be proactive in case the state legislature passes a law pre-empting home rule authority, which would void many human rights acts around the state.

“It’s shameful an openly gay city commissioner has wasted so much time with petty non-binding resolutions and proclamations when he’s had more than one term in office to codify these protections in city ordinance,” Rajner said.

Rajner spoke to SFGN as an activist, but he also serves on the Broward County Human Rights Board and as the LGBTQ Representative for the Broward County Democratic Party. 

SFGN reached out to the three major LGBT rights organizations in South Florida for their opinion on whether cities should move forward on LGBT protections, even if they’re already covered by their respective counties.

“Every nondiscrimination policy, ordinance, or law at the local, state or national level should include sexual orientation and gender identity.
 – Nadine Smith, Equality Florida

“PBCHRC and I firmly believe that cities should enact LGBTQ-inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances, even if they are in counties that have countywide ordinances.”
– Rand Hoch, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council 

SAVE in Miami also agreed cities should move forward with their own protections.   

In an interview with SFGN, Roberts said he’s in favor of the city adopting its own non-discrimination ordinance, but he wants to wait until after the election. “I will definitely move forward. My concern is I don’t want it to fail.”

Asked who on the commission he thought would vote against it, “I’d rather not get into that right now . . . My track record on these issues in the past should be taken into account,” said Roberts, referring to his vote to support a pro-gay marriage city resolution and protections for LGBT employees in the city’s procurement process. “The bottom line here is I’m supportive.”

SFGN reached out to the candidates who are vying for Trantalis’ current District 2 seat. Both agreed Fort Lauderdale should have its own ordinance. 


"I think the county's ordinance is strong, but I don't see the harm. What's the downside?

I think it reinforces the importance of the issue. So, yes, I would support it.”
– Steve Glassman


"I don't think you can have too many anti-discrimination ordinances. I'm really a firm believer in everybody being equal. I don't know if it will technically, legally help, but it sends the message that it's a new world. We've just got to strike that [discrimination] all down, wherever it is.”

— Tim Smith


On Facebook George Castrataro, who lost his bid to represent District 2, also weighed in:

“The basic premise of a non-discrimination ordinance in Fort Lauderdale is positive and represents a good policy for our City. It is unfortunate that an issue beneficial to so many groups (beyond LGBT) and so neutral in its intent would become political,” Castrataro wrote. “I support Dean in his run for Mayor and hope that he and Bruce both properly prioritize the handling of this proposal. Contrary to the rationale of our current mayor, it is worthwhile to note that there are countless City ordinances which replicate ordinances on a County and State level. For example, there are numerous elements of the City Ordinance on Dogs which replicates the parallel County Ordinance on Dogs. Certainly, if we can do it for our pets we can do it for our citizens.”

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