The Palm Beach
County, Fla., board of commissioners voted Tuesday to
prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public
accommodations based on gender identity or expression,
according to a press release from the Palm Beach
County Human Rights Council, a local nonprofit
organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on
sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender
Jeff Koons, board
vice chairman, initiated the proposal to amend the
county's Equal Employment Ordinance and Fair Housing
Ordinance at the request of the Human Rights Council.
In late May, council president Rand Hoch requested
that Koons take the lead in urging the county
commissioners to amend the two nondiscrimination ordinances.
"No one should be fired, harassed, or denied promotion
simply because they don't fit the stereotypes for
masculinity or femininity," Hoch told Koons at the
time, according to the release.
Koons, a longtime
advocate for equal rights, initially raised the issue
with the county commissioner at a meeting held on September
11. The commissioners formally voted to direct staff
to amend the two ordinances to include "gender
identity or expression" at their October 2 meeting. In
the weeks that followed, assistant county attorney Tammy
Fields, with input from the Human Rights Council, drafted
the amendments that were adopted at Tuesday's meeting.
"For the third time this year, elected officials in
Palm Beach County have acted promptly to bring an end
to legal discrimination," said Hoch in the statement.
With almost 1.3
million people, Palm Beach County will become one of the
nation's largest jurisdictions to prohibit discrimination
against transgender persons. "Based on estimates from
the National Center for Transgender Equality, between
5,000 and 10,000 people in Palm Beach County are
living as members of the opposite gender," said Heather
Wright, who transitioned from male to female seven years
ago, in the statement.
Last month, at
the request of the Human Rights Council, Rep. Kelly
Skidmore of Boca Raton introduced legislation that would
prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation
and gender identity or expression throughout Florida.
More than 10% of the members of the Florida house of
representatives -- including local state representatives
Mary Brandenburg, Susan Bucher, Richard Machek, Maria Sachs,
Priscilla Taylor, and Shelley Vana -- have already
signed on as cosponsors of Skidmore's
In over 90 U.S.
cities and counties it is now illegal to
discriminate based on gender identity or expression.
Thirteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii,
Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New
Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) and
the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibiting
discrimination based on gender identity or expression.