Our annual 2016 Susan B. Anthony Feminist of the Year Awards Luncheon was dynamic! For photos, click here.
On Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016 several members of our chapter, and others, staged a demonstration against corruption and collusion in the local courts, as revealed by investigative reporting by the Palm Beach Post’s John Pacenti. Click here for a report on the demonstration; for an example of what happens to families in the court system, read the latest story–it happens to be from another state, but similar stories happen in Florida and all over.
On Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 (10:30-noon) at the Delray Beach Public Library at 100 West Atlantic Ave. NOWPBC sponsored an event called Black Women’s Lives Matter: #SayHerName presented by two remarkable persons: Danielle Allen and U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee.Ms. Allen presented a multimedia presentation on Black women who have been shot by police or died in custody to help the over 50 attendees learn the extent to which such horrific treatment of black women has reached. The media concentrates on the atrocious conduct and injustices black males are subjected to, and Danielle brought to our attention the plight black women have and are suffering today as well.
Since 1998, U.S. Representative Lee, has aggressively advocated for meeting the needs of the underserved and vulnerable people in her CA District 13, throughout the U.S., and globally. She has been a strong proponent of safe communities, protection of women’s right for reproductive health choices and myriad issues related to the quality of live for every person. She has established a reputation for principled and independent stands on tough issues and in 2013 became chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and currently sits on the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus (COPC). She brings integrity to Washington by helping persons deal with the federal bureaucracy.
Both speakers fielded a call for action. We networked and affirmed ways to support each other. Most of us believe there has been enough words and rhetoric and we plan to rally and protest the inactions and injustices of law enforcement agencies when they misstep. We need to be spokespersons for those who suffer discrimination, especially in their absence.
Arlene R Ustin, President, PBC NOW
Terrific program and, afterwards, demonstration for Choice in downtown Delray on January 23, 2016. Here are some photos:
From Joan Waitkevicz:
NOW members showed up in force for a “Fight for $15” rally, Tuesday November 10, 2015 at the Supervisor of Elections Office in West Palm Beach. The rally was part of a National Day of Action in over 500 U.S. cities, held one year before Election Day to ask voters to elect candidates who support a living wage.
Over 100 union members, and workers hoping to be organized, braved a sudden thunderstorm (we didn’t hear about the funnel cloud till later!) that passed through just as the rally started. Most were women of color working in healthcare. Most were not young.
Speakers from the Service Employees International Union and Local 1199 were joined by U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, FL Senators Jeff Clemens and Joseph Abruzzo, Riviera Beach City Commissioner Terence Davis, and Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. Bucher made a plea for a $15/ hour minimum wage for the election workers of Palm Beach County.
Chants included “I can’t survive on $8.05.” How moving. For women–and for men–a living wage at your day job means you can be home with your children at night. Tell the right wing ideologues, that’s family values!
from Judith Selzer Thursday, Oct 8, 2015
Subject: Girls Leadership Institute Nominations Opportunity
In photos: Sheila Jaffe, Shirley Herman and Arlene Ustin
US Rep. Lois Frankel’s Press Conference for Planned Parenthood
City Hall, West Palm Beach September 3, 2015
Comments by Arlene Ustin
My name is Arlene Ustin and I am the current President of the PBC chapter of NOW. Standing beside me are Natalie Andre, Sheila Jaffe, and Meredith Ockman, past presidents; Joan Waitkevicz and Shirley Herman, Board members.
As a young woman, my mother lived through the first “sexual revolution,” when Margaret Sanger and others promoted diaphragms and women died in back alleys from illegal abortions. She commented that it bothered governmental and religious authorities that women could control their own reproductive lives. This phenomenon continues today.
Abortions have been legal since 1973. The federal government does not fund them. Yet, the unrelenting attempts to prevent women from adequate health care in Florida are unconscionable and vindictive. Planned Parenthood provides vital and needed care, such as cancer screening, contraceptive services, and many other preventative and well-being programs to thousands of women, especially those who live in rural locations in our state and who come from low-income households.
There is a fundamental fight over control of women’s bodies, health, and lives. NOW has actively fought and will continue to fight legislation that attacks the rights of women to make their own decisions as men can make theirs.
Four Chinese women representing the Shanghai Women’s Federation came from Shanghai to share with their American counterparts information on women’s issues. The object was to help women to balance work and family, explore issues involving the “glass ceiling”, improve women’s living standards, etc.
Several PBC NOW members attended, including four who did presentations: Ann Fonfa, Shirley Herman, Joan Waitkevicz and Arlene Ustin; also present were Sheila Jaffe and Natalie Andre.
Karen Wilkerson, President of the PBC League of Women Voters, did a presentation on the past two centuries of American women’s status. The 1800’s were primarily agricultural, marked by a westward expansion and immigration. Beginning in the early 1900, women entered the professions of nursing and teaching; they were seen as consumers and homemakers, but they obtained the right to vote and own property. From 1960 to 1990, there was a great change in expectations—in sports, in pay (should be equal), childcare, maternity leave; the latest women’s liberation movement took root.
Dr. Joan Waitkevicz, Membership Director, presented a program on reproductive rights. Dr. Waitkevicz’s practice centered primarily on women and HIV patients; semi-retired, she now does chemical and pill abortions. She talked about how, since abortion was legalized nationally in 1973, groups have been trying to outlaw abortion, placing burdens on those seeking help. This has made it particularly hard on poor women and women in rural areas.
She talked about the need for comprehensive sex education to keep safe and healthy. Another subject was rape prevention. Pres. Obama is a leader in promoting awareness of this problem on campuses and in the military.
Joan spoke of the current needs for working women—they should not lose their job due to pregnancy or sexual orientation; they should have workplace childcare. In addition, new mothers should have well baby home visits soon after birth, to check on any problems before they cause harm.
Shirley Herman, Treasurer, gave a talk on economic inequality. She explained how, in the 60’s, when she was job hunting, ads were separated into “Help Wanted, Female” and “Help Wanted, Male”. (One thing she didn’t mention—the female section was listed after the male section.) This became illegal, but women still make less than men—currently 78¢ for every dollar a man makes. Traditional women’s jobs—teacher, childcare, elder care—pay less. Inequality throughout her career results in inequality at retirement, both in pensions and Social Security, so 12% of retired women live in poverty.
The current minimum wage is about $7.00 per hour. A woman with one child must earn $24.32 per hour to live in decent circumstances. In addition, poor women can’t afford birth control or abortion.
When asked, the Chinese women said that there are many women legislators, maternity leave is mandated, and food is provided for the elderly.
Mareta Iosia-Sizemore, PCSC Student Life Director and Title IX Coordinator, described the history of Title IX, which was created in 1972 to end gender discrimination and inequality in schools receiving Federal funding. She went into statistics concerning rape and violence, explaining that Title IX has evolved to include issues of sexual violence (Clery Act/Safe Campuses) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Professor Eliana Mukherjee discussed women and education. 57% of college students are women, and 60% of graduate students are women, a large change over the past century. However, teachers—female as well as male—still tend to stereotype students based on gender, expecting girls to be docile, compliant and more concerned about popularity than academics, compared to boys. Assertiveness by girls is seen differently from that of boys. Males appear much more often in textbooks, perpetuating gender roles.
Another shortcoming relating to gender is that only 17 states have sex education programs; as only women can get pregnant, this shortcoming has a much greater impact on them. (comment by writer, not this professor)
A third PSCS professor spoke of STEM (Science, Technical, Engineering and Math). Although women make up 48% of the workforce, they make up only 24% of STEM jobs. Women in STEM jobs make 33% more than women in non-STEM jobs. Their STEM jobs are more likely to be in healthcare, not engineering. One reason is that STEM jobs often have long hours and little flexibility for family needs.
A group of four PBSC professors talked about the definition of Feminism. When asked, only 20% of students identified themselves as feminists. The other 80 % used negative words in defining feminists. However, almost everyone believed in gender equality, which is the definition of feminist.
PBSC professor Mary Pernal gave a presentation on gender and the media, and how popular culture influences politics. Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres were cited as breaking through gender stereotypes, and Caitlin Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner) was mentioned as affecting public perception of transgender individuals. (comment from writer—certainly, a number of prominent LGBT actors, no longer in the closet, have helped with the public acceptance of equal marriage.)
Ann Fonfa, PBC NOW Board Member, gave a talk on breast cancer. In 1990 the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Act was passed, and in 1991 the National Breast Cancer Coalition was formed. She spoke of environmental poisons, and compared rates of different cancers in China and the US.
Arlene Ustin, NOWpbc President, gave a presentation on human trafficking, also known as modern-day slavery. It is an estimated $32 billion global industry. It is a major humanitarian concern and children are particularly vulnerable. Accurate data is hard to obtain because of the criminal nature of the activity, but even the lowest figures are staggering.
Only recently are people in the U.S. recognizing that this horrific industry does not only happen abroad. In fact, Florida, along with Texas and California, is the biggest offender in this sordid industry. Here in the U.S. it is estimated that 100,000 children, ages 11 to older teens, are sex trafficked each year and 83% are Americans. So how does one go about addressing this huge problem? In 2014 a coalition of groups called POAST (Partner Organizations Against Sex Trafficking) came together and narrowed its focus on children under 18 years of age who are victims in Florida. Sex Trafficking is not a women’s issue, it’s a man’s issue too. We worked simultaneously in three areas: awareness, education, and advocacy. Among our successes are: For awareness we ran poster campaigns in English, Creole, and Spanish; we established a speakers bureau and offer presentations to all kinds of community groups to dispel myths, teach the public what to look for, and what it can do; we participated in events and rallies. For education, we succeeded in having the PBC Schools proclaim January “Human Trafficking Month Awareness;” we now have access to all school grades (parents and teachers too) to teach sex trafficking age-appropriate curricula. For advocacy, we worked with legislators and succeeded in passing a law to post the national hotline, (888) 373-7888 (which can respond in 200 languages and is networked to assist potential victims with local agencies) in myriad venues across the state.
August 1, 2015 (Oxbridge Academy, West Palm Beach) Third Annual Symposium for Sea Level Rise
PBC NOW President Arlene Ustin attended this event which offered speakers (scientists, engineers, politicians (FL Rep. Mark Pafford and FL Sen. Jim Clemens), workshops, and tables for regional groups committed to addressing climate change. PBC Commissioner Paulette Burdick invited us to call and learn how we can educate our membership to change the leadership of FL so that it addresses all our social and environmental concerns.
July 30, 2015 (West Palm Beach, PBC Chamber of Commissioners): Hearing on the Ag Reserve
The PBC commissioners, except Paulette Burdick, favor (and have since passed) an amendment to the 1980 referendum that provides the means for additional development in the Ag Reserve, thereby violating the spirit of the referendum for which the public voted and paid $100 million to preserve as green spaces. In opposing this amendment, Arlene Ustin, representing PBC NOW, offered testimony saying If we keep fragmenting green spaces in the Ag Reserve with cement and prevent them from being contiguous, we are obstructing rainwater from being absorbed to nourish our aquifers for palatable water and we are increasing the dire consequences of flooding. Moreover, the Ag Reserve has some of the best land in the U.S. (because it does not freeze for any time that would destroy crops) and provides the country with winter vegetables.
July 25, 2015 (Delray Beach): Moment of Celebration: U.S. Supreme Court Victories/Action: NOW report; Stories and Visions for the Future
Twenty of us gathered to celebrate, relate, and reflect about events that have affected our lives as women and as feminists. First, we savored three U.S. Supreme Court actions: on January 21, 2016 the court will hear a case on Domestic Violence and Housing (no women should have to decide between shelter and safety); and on June 26, 2015 the court decided to make Affordable Care Act Subsidies available in all states (proportionately affecting more women and children than men); and the court decided that same-gender marriages are legal. Meredith Ockman presented a fabulous PowerPoint about the history of LGBT efforts to gain civil rights beginning in 1867!. Lois Frankel, U.S. Congresswoman set the tone for sharing our personal stories. Amid the glow we created that morning, we all know the hard work that lies ahead.
June 18-21, 2015 (New Orleans, LA): 2015 Annual NOW Conference: From the Grassroots Up: Action at the Intersections
Arlene Ustin, representing PBC NOW, attended this daunting, yet fabulous, intense, and productive milestone. Being mandated in 2013 to modernize NOW, during the last six months input via webinars, and all forms of communication were gathered to restructure it from top to bottom. During marathon stretches of continuous plenaries, Terry O’Neill, the President of National NOW, in her inimitable, ever gracious, and talented manner facilitated more than 250 members through every proposal offered for every by-law provision and administrative policy. The final draft will be out soon, but for the present NOW’s Statement of Purpose (if not in the exact words) is: to take action through grassroots activism to lead societal change in order to create a fair and just culture wherein all women and girls are free to develop their full potential and not be silenced, but to be valued, and have a voice.
May 30, 2015 (Delray Beach): Juvenile Justice: Children in Prison
Juvenile justice is a huge issue affecting us all. It is confounding, complex, and challenging. More than 50 persons attended our program to learn about our incarcerated youth, children at risk, the professionals who serve them, and what we, as citizens, can do to help. Our remarkable panel of distinguished guests was: PBC Juvenile Court Judge Ron Alvarez (ret.); PBC Public Defender Carey Haughwout; FL Rep. Dave Kerner; Legislative Aide to FL Rep. Bobby Powell, Jr., Tradrick McCoy; PBC Chief Probation Officer of the FL Department of Juvenile Justice Greg Starling; Delray Beach PD Chief Jeff Goldman, and Community Organizer and Activist Teisha McKoy.
Resolution to Restore Voting Rights for Former Offenders of Lesser Crimes: NOW’s past National President Patricia Ireland and PBC NOW Arlene Ustin drafted the proposal which unanimously passed to support the effort to have a citizen initiated Constitutional Amendment paced on the 2016 ballot.
May 16-18, 2015 (Venice, FL): FLNOW Annual State Conference
Six PBC NOW members attended. We participated and presented educative workshops, networked, and committed to action.
April 25 (Delray Beach): Earth Day Celebration
Representing PBC NOW Arlene Ustin participated in the events to educate the public about sea level rise and storm surge. We gave out information, surveys, drew symbolic chalk lines in three communities to bring climate change awareness ‘home.’
April 2015 POAST (Partner Organizations Against Sex Trafficking)
PBC NOW is a founding member. POAST has completed its first year and here is a summary of its accomplishments:
We have made excellent progress in our initial three goals of spreading awareness, making educational in-roads, and supporting bills that improve the lives of victims of this horrific epidemic. Among our successes were: distribution of hundreds of posters advising the public (in English, Spanish, and Creole) how to determine whether or not a child they know or meet, might be a victim of sex trafficking right here in Palm Beach County and what can be done; created a speakers bureau to inform public and private groups about the scope of this issue; advocated for PBC’s School Board to proclaim January “Human Trafficking Month,” arranged to present educational programs on trafficking to middle and high school students; and worked on state legislation that Governor Scott signed into law to mandate the National Trafficking Hotline phone number be posted in key locations, i.e., truck stops, transportation offices, libraries, hospitals, strip clubs, etc.
Sunday, March 29, 2015, PBC NOW joined in the Pride Parade in Lake Worth. Here are some photos:
Long a proponent of lesbian rights, the National Organization for Women has advocated for equal marriage since 2006. On the evening of January 6, 2015, the day same sex marriage became legal in Florida, PBC NOW members joined other advocates on the steps of the West Palm Beach Courthouse to celebrate our victory.
Just after midnight on January 6th, Clerk of the Court Sharon Bock performed a wedding ceremony for dozens of same-sex couples. The ceremony, and other videos and photos, can be viewed via her website at http://www.mypalmbeachclerk.com/group-wedding-1-6-2015.aspx
On January 24, 2015, the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, PBC NOW sponsored the Florida premiere of the film “Vessel.” All proceeds were donated to Emergency Medical Assistance, the local Women’s Emergency Fund (www.emawpb.org).
Moved by women’s suffering in countries where abortion is illegal, Dr Rebecca Gomperts and her crew sail into international waters to distribute the abortion pill. Their boldness inspires local activists on four continents to get loud and proud, changing hearts and laws to help women.
On “Black Friday,” November 28, 2014, NOW members joined members of several unions, Florida New Majority, Raging Grannies, and other economic justice advocates, to demand a living wage for Walmart workers. The gathering was held at the store’s Old Boynton Road location.
On Saturday, November 15th NOW presented an election wrap up at Compass. there were 26 attendees who listened, raptly, as State Representative and incoming minority leader, Mark Pafford shared his views on where we go from here.
He covered issues such as, but not limited to: women’s reproductive health; women’s health care in prison; sex trafficking; LGBT equality, marriage and divorce; equal pay for equal work; increasing the minimum wage; flex hours at work; rights restoration; disability rights; education and charter schools and senior services.
Representative Pafford was fairly pessimistic about achieving much positive legislation this coming legislative session. He repeatedly reminded all that we must hold our representatives accountable and should lobby them. He believed we needed to change the way the State taxes us, stating that seniors were proximately 23% of the population and that they generally contributed much more than they cost. He felt FL needed the old millionaire’s tax and that we needed to get away from relying on property and sales taxes. He thought we might get a bill on sex trafficking and perhaps some movement on medicaid expansion.
A lively question and answer session ended the afternoon.
NOW program of October 18th, “The Rights of Immigrant Women.”
Jill Hanson, an attorney, and Betzy Rega, a Guatemala born, New York raised advocate against domestic violence and for women’s health, were the presenters.
Recently a U.S. Court of Appeals granted asylum to a group of Guatemalan immigrant women on the basis of spousal abuse. They were unable to find relief through the police, courts or family in Guatemala and so became eligible to stay in the U.S.
In addition, the U Visa, recently reauthorized under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA,) allows immigrant women and men who are crime victims here in the US (whether victims of domestic violence felonious assault, or trafficking,) and testify in court, to apply for 3 year permanent residency and a path to citizenship if:
- The person applying was the victim
- The crime qualifies under federal law
- The person cooperates with the States Attorney (who then will send them to Victims Servces to process the application,) and
- The States Attorney attests the victim has in fact cooperated.
This is supposed to help reduce crime and trafficking within immigrant communities. If the victim is here illegally the trafficker commonly threatens them with deportation. The problem is, not many victims know they can get a U Visa.
Jill and Betzy also discussed the recent increase in child immigrants in PB County. They suggested we ask our municipal governments to pass a “welcoming resolution” for the children.
They also said women have more difficulty getting services due to cultural and language barriers. Not all Latina immigrant women speak Spanish though their husbands may; in a domestic confrontation the police officer may only understand the man.
They asked us to request the county reinstate the Victims Services office at the county courthouse.
They asked us to push for all police in the county to periodically get Domestic Violence training by victim advocates; so far West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and Tequesta police have had training through FL Resource Center for Women and children.
Members of our chapter joined Planned Parenthood’s PAC to rally against Hobby Lobby in Boca. Click here for photos!
Program on Medical Marijuana and Florida Constitutional Amendment #2
On Saturday, September 27, 2014, PBC NOW had a program on Medical Marijuana (Florida Constitutional Amendment #2) at Hagen Ranch Library. Ann Fonfa, cancer Patient Advocate, spoke in support of Amendment #2 legalization of Medical Marijuana. Ann focused on the evidence on the value of doctors and people with serious health challenges being able to access cannabis.
There is a variety of information on the affect of marijuana for people who have lost their appetite – like those undergoing cancer treatments, or those with HIV/AIDS. People suffering from the tremors of Parkinson Disease can get some relief too. People with epilepsy may be able to reduce their seizures. Those with MS can benefit in a variety of ways – as one audience member eloquently showed us. Marijuana can be used to help reduce nausea and vomiting (sometimes uncontrolled in those taking chemotherapy drugs).
Ann told the audience that more than 15,000 people died each year from an overdose of legally-prescribed pain killers. She noted that there are no reports of deaths from marijuana overdose. Additionally the states that have already legalized medical use of marijuana report no increase in deaths, no problems with addictions, and no increase in traffic-related deaths.
Board member Les Rivkin pointed out that some people do become ‘addicted’ to marijuana. When Ann searched for those statistics, there were no specifics on marijuana alone, but bundled it into use of other drugs.
Studies from Europe – since marijuana was (mistakenly) classified as a Schedule 1 drug very little research is done in the US – show all sorts of health benefits including possibly directly killing cancer cells. Many studies are needed to follow up on this.
22 states and the District of Columbia allow medical use of marijuana. Two states – Washington and Colorado have complete legalization of marijuana. Various strains of medical marijuana have been developed and the substances are now available in food and drinks.
Amendment #2 regarding the legalization of Medical Marijuana (by doctor’s prescription and under the control of the Florida Dept of Health) will be on the November 2014 ballot. Remember to VOTE.
Submitted by Ann Fonfa
National NOW’s Press Release on the Killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson
For National’s press release, Click here
August 2, 2014 Program on Several Issues
At the Hagen Ranch library we had a terrific program featuring, in order, Andy O’Brien, candidate for County Commissioner Dist 4, addressing the issue of preserving the environment; Mona Reis, owner of Presidential Women’s Center, expounding on women’s reproductive health and accompanied by one of her clients who faced a serious reproductive health problem; Sen. Nan Rich, candidate for governor, addressing many issues of concern to us; and Arlene Ustin, explaining the need for laws concerning gun violence.
Many thanks to Carol Porter for taking photos. She may be reached at her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/carol.porter.988
There are so many great photos! To see a few choice ones, go to our photo page. If you want to see all of them, go to:
Creation of Statewide Court Watch System
The court watch system created in Palm Beach County has been very effective when used; at the recent annual conference in Mount Dora, members of the Florida NOW Child Custody Committee formed a Court Watch Committee to export this system statewide. Below is the resolution passed establishing this new Court Watch Committee:
Creation of a NOW Statewide Court Watch Network
WHEREAS, domestic violence and rape are core concerns of the National Organization for Women; and
WHEREAS, bitter child custody disputes emanate from control issues, domestic violence and/or child abuse; and
WHEREAS, in the past twenty years, over one million children have been “awarded” to abusive parents; and
WHEREAS, Florida NOW has a Child Custody/Family Court Committee to address this issue, in accordance with the model established by South Palm Beach County’s Families Against Court Travesties (FACTS); and
WHEREAS, this model has included a hotline for frantic victims seeking help and support; and
WHEREAS, court watches are desperately needed in these cases of domestic violence, bitter child custody disputes and rape; and
WHEREAS, court watches are very effective in promoting integrity in the justice system through professional, equitable behavior on the part of all court personnel, judges, lawyers, witnesses and others; and
WHEREAS, time is of the essence and court watches are often requested and created at the last moment
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that Florida NOW form a Court Watch Committee designed to contact local NOW chapter leaders to join specific court watches in their vicinity as these are requested.
Adele Guadalupe and Linda Marie Sacks, Florida NOW Child Custody Committee, 561 866 3233, and Natalie Andre, Florida NOW Court Watch Committee.
Program on Saturday, May 17, 2014: “Ending Modern-day Slavery in S. Florida”
At the Delray Public Library in Delray Beach, approximately 100 persons attended our program. Its timing folds into the momentum, the groundswell, we are experiencing in the U.S. today regarding the horrific industry of sex trafficking and forced labor trafficking. Our purpose was to bring awareness of this travesty to the public and to dispel two myths: that such heinous criminal activity takes place far away and that it is a women’s issue. In fact, it is the opposite, it occurs next door, and each of us, every man and every woman, can take part in putting an end to it. We’ve asked leaders on the frontline to inform us.
From the legislative perspective, Florida State Senator Maria Sachs presented an overview of how Modern-day Slavery exists in our communities; what laws we have in place, what legislation we need to have, and how can we support our political leaders in Tallahassee.
From a law enforcement perspective, Special Agent Jon Longo, with the Department of Homeland Security in West Palm Beach described the forms in which Modern-day Slavery manifest in S. Florida, whom they affect, how they operate, and how authorities act on behalf of the victims/survivors.
From a legal advocacy perspective, the Case Management Coordinator for Building Empowerment by Stopping Trafficking (B.E.S.T), Certified Coach Rosie Johnson and from the Homeland Security Investigations office in Miami, Victim Assistance Specialist Arthur Corrieri explained how we, as regular citizens (informal ‘first responders’) can help: What we can do and what we cannot do.
A 3-page handout with hotline numbers, agencies and information about how to recognize and participate in ending this scourge was given to all attendees.
Program on April 21, 2014: Status of Equal Marriage in Florida
On April 21, 2014 PBC NOW hosted an information session on the status of equal marriage in Florida, held at Compass Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Lake Worth, and co-hosted by their Director, Julie Seaver.
In January eight same-sex couples sued for the right to marry in Florida. Their attorney, Elizabeth Schwartz, spoke to us about the suit. She also gave a wealth of practical advice for couples preparing to marry. (The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Florida are also plaintiffs.)
Her clients Jo and Arian (not from the lawsuit) charmed the audience with their 9 day old baby and a screening of their proposal video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krqyp-XWTyA
We discussed another case now in the courts, for Florida to recognize legal same-sex marriages performed outside the state. This one was brought in March by the ACLU and the PB County Human Rights Council.
We also distributed a Resource Sheet on the rights that legally married same sex couples already have throughout the U.S., as a result of Federal law and policy.
Program on Voters Suppression, Restoration of Rights, and Expungement, Saturday Nov. 23, 2013
The original Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.
In the recent past it has been downgraded by the Supreme Court and as a result, some states have once again put obstacles and barriers in the way of the voting public’s rights.
SUSAN BUCHER, SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS, who spoke on the problems of the last elections and the upcoming problems of the 2014 elections.
CAREN RAGAN, AUTHOR/ARTIST
Gave first hand information of how the problems ex-convicts experience even after serving their full terms demean them and their futures.
GEOFF KASHDAN, VP ACLU
Gave a Power Point presentation on ex-convicts who were found guilty of committing a felony are being prevented from voting in the state of Florida. Many questions were asked at the end of the program. About 30 people were in attendance
Program on Violence Against Women Saturday October 19, 2013
Palm Beach County NOW’s Meredith Ockman led a discussion concerning Domestic Violence that focused on local and individual opportunities to help victims. We showed the film “Telling Amy’s Story,” a dramatic re-enactment and true story of domestic violence and educated the community about the Butterfly House and The Inner Truth Project.
Julie Weil shared her story and fight. Julie’s sexual assault and rape was the catalyst to open the rape crisis/treatment center, The Butterfly House which is at the Wellington Regional Medical Center turns victims into survivors. Julie advocates to improve laws that deal with rape and has testified before the US Supreme Court and Congress, meeting with each and every representative and senator! Through the passage of VAWA 2012, Julie’s “Safer Act” became law and created a national registry to track untested DNA from rape kits.
The Inner Truth Project is a Community Center for Sexual Abuse Survivors, located in St. Lucie County. Its efforts remove the stigma of shame of living through sexual abuse, violence or rape. The Inner Truth Project provides a place for survival! http://www.innertruthproject.org/
Meeting Concerning Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, Oct. 2, 2013
A rewarding meeting about PBC NOW’s move forward to help end Modern-Day Slavery was held Oct. 2. President Natalie Andre and committee members Arlene Ustin and Elin Shusterman met with an international advocate for combating Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking.
With over 26 million slaves estimated today worldwide (22 million are thought to be women and girls), Florida ranks among the top 3 states in the country for human trafficking, with South Florida being the main hub of activity for this horrific multi-billion dollar industry. Being in Palm Beach puts PBC NOW right in the middle of prime activity of both the sexual slave trade and the even larger slave labor market. This gives PBC NOW the opportunity to put forth efforts to make a difference in their community to stop these unacceptable criminal activities that lead to the worst forms of human suffering and outrageous, unimaginable treatment of women and children.
Amongst other things, the meeting covered how to recognize possible victims of slavery and what actions to take, as well as how to identify and get involved with the most prominent trustworthy groups currently working locally, nationally and internationally to combat this problem. Since slavery is a dangerous business run by violent people, it is recommended that you call (888) 373-7888 (Polaris Project.org) or your local police if you suspect anyone is being held against their will or has been kidnapped for the purposes of slavery.
PBC NOW is planning an in-depth presentation on Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking on Sat., March 22 at 10 AM. Please set aside this date to join us and let as many people know about what we’re doing as you can. If you wish to volunteer to help with any of our efforts for ending modern-day slavery, please contact us at email@example.com or (561) 987-9878.
Working Mothers Program, Sept. 21, 2013
Detailed report coming soon; here are some great photos of our panel and our rally/march from the Delray Library to Racks, the restaurant involved in a federal lawsuit concerning its firing of an employee for being pregnant (settled out of court):
Personal Report on Women’s Equality Day
By Natalie Andre, President
August 26, 2013 PBC NOW, along with over a dozen other local organizations, celebrated Women’s Equality Day (93rd anniversary of our right to vote) and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
My mother was 9 years old when the 19th Amendment was passed, allowing my grandmother to vote, and I was 18 when I marched for civil rights in 1963. This history is very real to me, and so I brought historical documents to the WED celebration this Monday, August 26th:
1. a flyer announcing the joint NOW-NAACP celebration of the 30th anniversary of the March on August 28, 1993
2. a proclamation by the county commissioners supporting our celebration
3. two news articles describing it.
These can be seen on our photo page, https://nowpbc.wordpress.com/photos/.
My children, and now my grandchild, will know about their history, as you can see from this photo.
Meredith Ockman Florida NOW VP and past Pres. PBC NOW Questioned Sen. Nan Rich during radio interview July 23
Nan Rich Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMeE5vIRNFQ
There were about 100 present for the recording of a live interview with audience on www.RadioOrNot.com. Senator (and hopefully future Governor)answered some poignant questions pertaining to life in Florida and how she intends to support the people she will represent. I was fortunate represent Florida NOW and PBC NOW in thanking the Senator for the great work that she’s done and to ask about support for women who are rape, domestic and sexual abuse survivors. It is clear in her response that she intends to not only provide support to survivors, but support the younger generation to ensure there is prevention in Florida.
The Florida NOW PAC has endorsed Senator Nan Rich because her years of public service show that she has been a strong supporter of NOW’s priority issues. Please take the time to review her record against the things that are important to your life.
Rally Celebrating Defeat of DOMA, June 30, 2013
Enjoy the photo:
Joan Waitkevicz, Shirley Herman, West Palm Beach Mayor Geri Muoio and Julie Seaver, Director of Compass Gay and Lesbian center
By Joan Waitkevicz,
Palm Beach County NOW’s “Loving Hands Across the Beach”” action in support of same sex marriage rights, was held outdoors at Lake Worth Beach on the morning of Sunday June 30, 2013, the anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion.
Supporters of same-sex marriage gather at Lake Worth Beach, anticipate change in state
Posted: 2:05 p.m. Sunday, June 30, 2013Email 1Facebook 0Twitter 0ShareThis 1TAYLOR JONESKaren Levin holds a sign “Love is Love” during a Palm Beach County National Organization for Women “Loving Hands Across the Beach” rally Sunday, June 30, 2013, celebrating the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage rights. The rally was held at Lake Worth Municipal Beach. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
Ann Fonfa of Delray Beach, sun hat with flowers, waves to beach goers at Lake Worth Municipal Beach Sunday, June 30, 2013 during the Palm Beach County National Organization for Women’s “Loving Hands Across the Beach” rally celebrating the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage rights. (Taylor Jones/The Palm Beach Post)
BY SONJA ISGER – PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
LAKE WORTH —
They’d been married in California or Boston, one couple in Canada, but those marriages aren’t recognized in Florida because they are women who married other women. On Sunday they gathered at Lake Worth Beach to say to all who passed by that they want that to change.
They believe the U.S. Supreme Court provided the momentum to lift the laws that restrict their partnerships when it ruled married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits and effectively allowed same-sex marriages in California.
About 25 people, most of them women, gathered at the beach to hoist signs and rally their spirits as hundreds of beachgoers hit the city boardwalk before the afternoon rain struck.
“This will maybe activate people who have not been active, maybe get them off their couches and get involved because there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Davilyn Whims of West Palm Beach.
Whims is a widow who recalls have to plan aggressively and pay extensively – well beyond what a heterosexual couple would have – to make the medical decisions as her partner Rusty Gordon suffered and eventually died from a neurological disorder. Florida law, however, will keep her from various Social Security benefits afforded straight married couples.
“There are 1,100 tax codes we could benefit from as a couple, but right now we’re blocked,” said Janis Kidder, who married Toni Armstrong Jr. in Canada in 2005, believing the U.S. government would be more likely to recognize their union if it was formed legally in another country. The couple live in Riviera Beach.
The Palm Beach County National Organization for Women promoted Sunday’s event. Supporters of same-sex marriage in Florida have set their sights on overturning state Amendment 2, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Said local NOW Vice President Meredith Ockman: “The wind is at our back. We have the momentum.”
For local coverage and a news’ video, go to http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/local-rally-for-gay-rights
Report on meeting with Florida Rep. Lori Berman, May 29, 2013
Attending: Natalie Andre (Pres.), Adele Guadalupe (VP), Sheila Jaffe (Bd. member via speaker phone), Amy Andre and Rayna Samuels-Katz (via Facetime).
We talked about Rep. Berman’s efforts to add a law against pregnancy discrimination to the state statutes so that women don’t have to seek federal attention to their situations; she filed one last year and will file one this year, but earlier, in order to expedite its processing and increase the likelihood of consideration and passage.
Note that Rayna is involved in a federal civil suit based on her alleged termination due to pregnancy. (See article in sun-sentinel: former hr director sues over alleged pregnancy discrimination for background information.
Rep. Berman plans to participate in a program on Sept. 21 on “Women Working”; it will be the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act (see Equal Pay Act of 1963) and we are still not there. It is also the 50th anniversary of the Commission on the Status of Women (see Presidential Commission on the Status of Women).
Rayna and Amy plan to join her in this presentation, with Amy explaining her personal experiences under the Canadian support system for new mothers.
Rep. Berman mentioned that she has been promoting the ERA all along.
Adele brought up the question of rape kits not being tested for DNA; Rep. Berman was aware of the issue but was not sure how many victims were affected in Florida and in Palm Beach County. She plans to look into it. We should also contact the local prosecutors to see how that is being handled here.
Rep. Berman has spoken out strongly against the alimony bills, and for a few years she was the only one pointing out how wrong they were. Fortunately, others are now aware of it and the outcry over passage motivated the governor to veto the bill, basically due to its retroactive applications.