City Welcomes Gay Polo, Says No to Gay Rights
On April 3, the Village of Wellington played host to the world’s first international gay polo tournament. Two days later, Village Attorney Jeffrey Kurtz rejected a local gay rights group’s request to revise the Village’s employment policies to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The people who bring their horses -- and their dollars -- to Wellington are extremely gay friendly,” said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
The Council is a local non-profit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“Gay men and lesbians have long been a very visible part of Wellington’s equestrian community,” said Jamie Todd Foreman, an openly gay attorney who lives in nearby Lake Worth.
Early this year, after the Gay Polo League announced it would hold its first national polo tournament in Wellington, the Council sent a letter to Village Manager Paul Schofield requesting him to update Village policies to prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Village employees.
Wellington previously denied similar requests made in 2006 and 2008, according to Hoch.
“Since Wellington was now welcoming gay polo, the Council expected a positive response this year,” said Hoch.”We really were taken aback by the Village’s denial of our request.”
Since 1988, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council has been successful in persuading local municipalities adopt gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
“More than sixty percent of Palm Beach County’s cities, towns and villages now have gay inclusive nondiscrimination policies,” said Hoch. “Wellington’s continued refusal to adopt gay inclusive policies is the exception, not the rule.
Two openly gay men and one lesbian currently serve as mayors of Palm Beach County municipalities, and the city manager of another city is transsexual, according to the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.
“In Florida, no place is more welcoming to gay employees than Palm Beach County,” said Hoch.
The gay polo tournament was a tremendous success. Nearly 1,500 people, including hundreds of openly gay men and lesbians, mingled in the Florida sunshine, tailgating and watching four teams compete at the Grand Champion Polo Club’s fields.
“It is such a pleasure and an honor to have this event in Wellington,” said Wellington resident Robert Dover, a six-time U.S. Olympic dressage rider
“Everyone had a great afternoon,” said Foreman. “Even Nacho was there, having fun with his kids.”
Nacho Figueras, who is considered one of the world’s best polo players, is also a top model for Ralph Lauren fragrances.
Gay Polo League president Chip McKenney is considering having the league return to Wellington in 2011 for another tournament with more players and spectators.
The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council expects Wellington to revise the policies before next year’s tournament.
“Our next step is to appeal directly to the Mayor and Village Council,” said Hoch. Hopefully they will understand that Wellington’s public image is now under scrutiny.”