Office of the Mayor
LGBT Liaison Robert Telford
Capt. Michael Deighan
Thanks to the leadership of West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and that of two of her predecessors -- Mayor Lois Frankel and Mayor Nancy Graham -- West Palm Beach has been in the forefront of LGBT equality for more than two decades.
In 1990, the city established the West Palm Beach Employment Practices Review Commission to recommend improvements to the city’s personnel practices and procedures. The blue ribbon panel’s final report included recommendations to improve the work environment for the city’s lesbian and gay employees. Within months, those recommendations were unanimously adopted by the City Commission. The following year, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to enact an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment.
City leaders recognized that while the actions taken to assist gay and lesbian municipal employees, steps also needed to be taken to address discrimination faced by the city’s lesbian and gay residents. Therefore, in 1991, the City Commission voted to prohibit the use of any public facilities or any public funding to any entities which had discriminated against members of a variety of protected classes – including gays and lesbians.
In 1992, West Palm Beach became the first public employer in Florida to provide domestic partnership benefits for municipal employees and in 1994, the West Palm Beach City Commission enacted an Equal Opportunity Ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in private and public employment, housing and public accommodation. (The ordinance was amended in 2007 to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.)
In February 2005, the City Commission adopted legislation that affords certain rights and benefits to qualified committed relationships that have registered with the City of West Palm Beach.
To the extent not superseded by federal, state, or county law or ordinance, Registered Domestic Partners in the City of West Palm Beach
shall have the following rights:
- The same right as a spouse to visit a partner at health care facilities located within, or under the jurisdiction of the City of West Palm Beach;
- The same right as a spouse to make health care decisions for an incapacitated partner;
- The same right as a surviving spouse with regard to funeral/burial decisions and disposition of the decedent partner’s body;
- The right to receive notification in those situations where notification of family is mandated or permissible;
- The right to be designated and to serve as a preneed guardian;
- A dependent of a Registered Domestic Partner shall have the same visitation rights as a patient’s child.
Although marriage equality was taking place in state-after state, it was slow to come to Florida. Therefore. During the period when same-sex marriage was prohibited in Florida, Mayor Muoio repeatedly championed ordinances to ensure that gay and lesbian municipal employees with domestic partners received the same benefits and take home pay as married opposite employees were entitled to receive.
Even when faced with federal laws which denied workers with domestic partners benefits that were granted to married employees, Mayor Muoio found her way to provide them for her employees. She persuaded her colleagues to extend equal health insurance continuation coverage (COBRA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to city employees with domestic partners. She also convinced City Commissioners to provide federal tax equity reimbursements for employees ensuring their domestic partners, since married employees were exempt from that taxation under federal law.
Mayor Muoio also had the city enact the West Palm Beach Equal Benefits Ordinance, which required city contractors to provide identical benefits to both married employees and employees with domestic partners.