On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the South Florida Gay News ran my Letter to the Editor, "Commissioner Rodstrom, Pick up the Flag and Carry it with Pride!" The letter created critical dialogue that identifies issues of public policy on which the Fort Lauderdale City Commission must act. In that letter, I stated:
This past September 8 the Fort Lauderdale Mayor and Commissioners quietly and sheepishly adopted an ordinance to extend benefits to the domestic partners for its work force of more than 2,300 city employees. When addressing the issues of discrimination, Fort Lauderdale's municipal ordinances fails to have an inclusive non-discrimination policy to protect LGBT employees in the work place, nor does it require the same in contracts for vendors doing business with the city like that of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners.
Last week, I attended the City Commission meeting to speak about an agenda item concerning vendor preference. The proposed item contained no provisions to address inequities many LGBT-individuals face in the workplace.
I requested that the Commission amend the proposed ordinance to include an Equal Benefits Ordinance (EBO), similar to the one adopted last year by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners. An EBO would require vendors with contracts of $100,000 and over to extend health coverage to the domestic partner of a vendor's employee should the vendor provide such coverage for an employee's married spouse. If the vendor does not provide the coverage, then it must provide financial compensation (equal to the amount of the cost of the health coverage) to the employee with a domestic partner. Vendors with less than five employees, religious organizations, and contracts with other government entities are exempt pursuant to a current county ordinance.
I also urged the City Commission to adopt a LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy. Currently, Fort Lauderdale has no policy on non-discrimination, and by default adheres to the federal and state statutes whereby sexual orientation and gender identity are not included. I additionally requested the agenda item be amended to require vendors doing business with the city to adopt the same, or a more expansive, policy on non-discrimination.
When Commissioner Rodstrom asked why such requirements were not part of the ordinance before them, the City Attorney explained that the public hearing for the ordinance, as amended, would need to be re-advertised. Sadly, once again the LGBT-community is waiting for the City Commission to vote affirmatively on policies providing parity and equity in the workplace. The Commission then approved the vendor ordinance without the requested amendments.
On the upside, the majority of the Commission signaled that they would be supportive of these policies if they were to come before the Commission again, and Mayor Seiler suggested that the City Charter be revised to include non-discrimination language.
Commissioner Roberts later gave his commitment as an LGBT-advocate to bring forward an ordinance to establish an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and which requires vendors to adopt this minimum standard.
As a community, we are often absent from city hall and other places where public policies that impact our lives are being debated. If we are to be an authentic, more inclusive society, then we must make the effort to immerse ourselves in the dialogue and debates that impact our lives. I'm pleased that the Fort Lauderdale Mayor and Commission vocally support the advancement of these ordinances. They have begun to unfold the Rainbow Flag and preparing at City Hall to hoist the flag with pride.