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Palm Beach County votes to ban discrimination over gender identity, expression


WEST PALM BEACH - Following in the footsteps of two other Palm Beach County cities, county commissioners on Tuesday voted to make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and expression.

The commission voted 5-1, with Commissioner Addie Greene dissenting, to make gender identity a "protected class" under the county's equal employment ordinance. County Commissioner Burt Aaronson did not attend the meeting. The ordinance applies to public and private employers with 15 or more employees.

"This really will give a huge boost to the statewide effort to finally get rid of that last legal form of discrimination," said Rand Hoch, founder and president of the local Human Rights Council.

Palm Beach County joins West Palm Beach and Lake Worth, which approved similar rules after the February firing of Largo City Manager Steve Stanton, who had announced his plans for a sex change operation.

Tequesta has approved a similar rule that applies only to village employees, Hoch said.

During Tuesday's county commission meeting, Commissioner Mary McCarty referred to the change as the "lipstick and high heels" rule.

Greene said she supports the effort to prevent discrimination, but didn't see a need to specifically protect the class in a county ordinance.

"If I want to go and become a man, that's your personal business," she said.

Commissioners also voted to change the county's fair housing ordinance to prohibit discrimination for housing and other public accommodations based on gender identity. Greene voted in favor.

Final public hearings on the issues will be held Dec. 18.


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