New contract: Boca Raton agrees not to discriminate against gays, lesbians

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The Boca Raton City Council Tuesday approved a contract with Palm Beach County with a provision that says the city will not discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual preference, gender identity or gender expression.

The contract was approved without discussion after a month of controversy about the city's equal opportunity policy.

The language, however, is not what you would expect in a 51-page contract that will pay Boca Raton about $235,000 a year to participate in a countywide system of removing hazardous waste.

Boca stopped short of fully adopting the county's policy. But this decision provided the understanding to smooth over the differences between the county's equal opportunity policy and the city's, which does not cover discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, gender identity or gender expression.

Later, Vice Mayor Susan Haynie complained that she was getting email based on misinformation about the city's opting out of the county's more inclusive equal opportunity provision.

"We did not take away anyone's rights," Haynie said, contending that the city follows state and federal guidelines against discrimination. "We are not discriminatory."

This compromise language in the contract won't be enough to stop the Palm Beach County Human Rights Commission questioning why the city in January 2011 formally opted out of the county's equal opportunity provision, said Rand Hoch, president of the commission.

Approving the contract with the statement — and letting stand its internal policy that doesn't include gays, lesbians and transgendered employees — leaves those groups without any recourse if they feel they've been discriminated against, Hoch said. The contract also says that the provision doesn't allow city employees to press for domestic partnership benefits.

"They'll take the money [for the hazardous waste removal] but they won't do anything about discrimination" against gays, lesbians or transgendered employees, Rand said. "Until they change their minds, we at the Palm Beach County Human Rights Commission are going to mark Boca Raton as a city run by bigots."