After a campaign that lasted more than five years, the Haverhill Town Council gave initial approval to enact the Civil Rights Act of the Town of Haverhill by unanimous vote, which goes into effect Sept. 10.
The Civil Rights Act of the Town of Haverhill will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, race, and more throughout the town.
Charlie Fredrickson, a gay 38-year Haverhill resident, approached the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council for help getting the Haverhill Town Council to enact an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance, according to a press release by PBCHRC.
"There is no reason why a small town like Haverhill should not have a civil rights law that protects everyone in the town," Fredrickson is quoted as saying.
PBCHRC is an organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
As per Fredrickson’s request, PBCHRC sent a memorandum to Haverhill's Mayor and Town Council Members, asking them to enact a civil rights ordinance similar to the ones enacted earlier that year by the other Palm Beach County municipalities in 2015.
However, only Lawrence Gordon supported the ordinance.
Undeterred, Fredrickson and Hoch appealed in person to the Town Council, according to the press release. However, the Town Council — over Gordon's objection — adopted an anti-discrimination resolution instead.
"While the resolution is a nice, symbolic gesture, it doesn't really do anything," Hoch told Town Council Members, according to the press release. "We'll be back."
The climate for municipal civil rights ordinances in Haverhill and throughout Palm Beach County started changing after that.
- Haverhill, with a population of 2,300 residents, became a majority-minority municipality with more than half of the residents being non-White.
- In consecutive elections, Haverhill voters elected two men who are a part of the LGBT community to the Town Council.
- LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances were enacted in Lake Worth Beach, North Palm Beach, Ocean Ridge, and Westlake.
Town Council Member Ray Caranci, a gay man, asked his colleagues to reconsider enacting an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance following his election last spring.
"We need a comprehensive civil rights ordinance to inform our residents that the Town of Haverhill values our diversity and protects the rights of all minorities," Caranci said in the press release. "The ordinance is necessary to direct our residents where to go for help if they feel their civil rights have been violated."
"Now, more than ever, civil rights laws truly make a difference," said Councilman Gordon in the press release.
"While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited nationwide, there are no federal or statewide laws in effect in Florida that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and public accommodations," said Hoch in the press release. "Therefore, until Congress or the Florida Legislature takes action, we must rely on local officials to fully protect LGBTQ people from discrimination."
In 2015, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council launched its "Palm Beach County: You're Welcome!" campaign to encourage elected officials to enact LGBT-inclusive municipal civil rights laws.
By mid-year, LGBT-inclusive civil rights laws were enacted in the cities of Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Delray Beach, and the Village of Wellington.
PBCHRC is also working with the City of Riviera Beach and the Town of Juno Beach to enact LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances in the upcoming weeks.
Out of 411 cities, towns and villages in Florida, only 32 have enacted LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinances, according to PBCHRC.