In the eyes of the South Florida gay community, Hollywood took a bit of a hit in 2018.
The Pleasure Emporium adult boutique was where 19 adult men were arrested in two undercover police stings last year for the alleged crimes of indecent exposure and oral sex.
A handful of local media outlets plastered their faces on TV and the internet. Some of the men were outed, fired from jobs and ostracized from friends and family.
People decried the use of limited police resources for such operations, among other objections both legal and otherwise.
A Broward County judge later dismissed the charges, ruling that the men were in a private space and should not have been arrested.
But a newly formed group is hoping to turn around any lingering negative perceptions about the police force or the city of Hollywood, and they’re off to a strong start.
The Hollywood LGBTQ+ Council launched April 24 at the CIRC Hotel where 125 people showed up on its rooftop bar. The council is led by its president, Todd Delmay, and a steering committee.
The group has held social events, its first town hall (60 people on a Saturday morning), and has been making connections with the Downtown Hollywood Business Association and key individuals in city government like Mayor Josh Levy, Police Chief Chris O’Brien and city commissioners.
“I am taking [city officials] where they are right now. They have been super supportive and we are just opening the dialogue,” Delmay said.
Delmay and Levy have appeared on a NBC6 TV segment about the council’s goals. In August, the council hosted O’Brien.
Interest is high and the council wants to add members – it’s free to join. They are looking for those who are interested in supporting or serving the group in any of its activities and initiatives.
“People kind of forget about Hollywood. We’re in the middle. We’re not Wilton Manors and we’re not South Beach,” Delmay said.
He means that in both a geographical and literal sense. But Delmay said Hollywood also has life and activity, and an emerging downtown corridor and a growing gay vibe.
Sidelines Sports Bar II recently opened there as well as the gay-owned Camp Cocktail Bar + Grill.
“We have a gay community here; we have a very large trans community in Hollywood. We couldn’t have picked better timing [to launch the council],” Delmay said.
Delmay owns a software company – Delmay Corp. – with his husband, Jeff Delmay, and six employees. Their office building is located on the doorstep of the city’s downtown area.
“There are exciting things happening downtown. We are bringing diverse voices to new spaces,” Delmay said.
He’s working with Evan Snow of Zero Empty Spaces, a program that gives artists affordable studio space for exhibitions and other events in empty storefronts and properties.
Delmay has also developed a rainbow sticker program for businesses.
HRC equality index
One of the first things Delmay did was work to get the city a higher score in the Municipal Equality Index published by the Human Rights Campaign.
Hollywood had scored a 46 out of 100 possible points in the 2018 index. Fort Lauderdale’s was 99.
“I was shocked that it was so low, so I met with the mayor and the commission,” Delmay said
One reason for a low score was that city employment policies didn’t protect LGBTQ people.
“They fixed it immediately,” Delmay said. “When LGBT voices are in the room it changes the conversation.”
Delmay has been appointed to the city’s sustainability committee; and another gay person was put on the oversight committee.
One of the biggest milestones came June 5 when Levy and the commission declared June as Pride month in Hollywood.
“It’s my understanding that it’s the first time city has ever had the opportunity to recognize its LGBTQ community in any way,” Delmay said.
The council is in the planning stages to host a Pride event in Hollywood next year – something small, at least at first.
Delmay is especially proud that in early September, O’Brien appointed an LGBT police-community liaison to the department.
Needless to say, the 2019 HRC score is already looking to be much higher. The application had to be submitted on July 31 and Delmay is expecting a 78. He wants 100 in 2020.
Frontline of equality
The council is run as a 501c4 nonprofit – which allows for political advocacy – and it has a partnership with Equality Florida.
Politics is something Delmay is very familiar with, including working alongside Equality Florida.
The couple made a name for themselves in the South Florida gay community when they were one of six plaintiffs to sue for the right to marry in the state, eventually prevailing.
In January 2015, they were one of the first to tie the knot in Miami-Dade County.
Delmay is also known on the lecture circuit for his "From Stonewall to Hollywood – a look at LGBTQ+ History made by local Hollywood Residents” talk.
The presentation features the stories of three Hollywood residents who stood up for their rights. He presented it at a recent Hollywood Chamber of Commerce luncheon and has more dates booked this year.
The council continues to partner with other organizations and hopes to do trainings with law enforcement. Delmay plans to continue to engage with transgender members of the community and perhaps offer sensitivity trainings for allies as well.
The council has cast a wide net over the greater Hollywood metro area to include Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach in their membership.
Its mission is to “elevate the voices, perspectives, and presence of LGBTQ+ residents, employees and business owners in shaping the vision for a vibrant and inclusive city.”
As part of the mission, the council has outlined a goal based on each letter of LGBTQ – Life, Government, Business, Transformation and Quality of life.
Members can decide what specific area of the mission they’d like to help support, including joining a committee.