Boynton Beach Mayor Cites Dictionary's Definition of Marriage as Reason to Vote Against Gay Rights

After receiving a report on workplace equality from the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council back in July, on Tuesday evening the Boynton Beach City Commission agreed to give benefits to employees with domestic partners or same-sex spouses. Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor, however, cast the one dissenting vote, expressing that the way the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines marriage is not in accordance with gay marriage and, therefore, they should not be awarded the same benefits as those who are in straight marriages.

Still, the vote -- which ended in 4-1 -- means that those in domestic relationships will be offered the same family benefits currently offered to municipal employees whose marriages are recognized by the state.

Benefits include medical, dental, and life insurance as well as giving the employees family sick leave, bereavement leave, and family medical leave.

Last night's yea votes came from Vice Mayor Joe Casello and Commissioners David Merker, Mack McCray, and Michael Fitzpatrick, with the one dissenting vote coming from Mayor Taylor.

Taylor expressed his religious beliefs as reason for giving the dissenting vote and railed against the proposals while referring to the definition of marriage from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

"Jerry Taylor needs to get a more current dictionary," the president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Rand Hoch, said in response to Taylor's diatribe. "I Googled the Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of marriage on the internet, and the online definition included 'the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.' But then, I doubt Mayor Taylor's dictionary includes the words 'Googled', 'online' or even 'internet.'"

The report sent to Mayor Taylor and city commissioners in July was a comprehensive look on workplace equality. In addition to the benefits, the commissioners also directed the city attorney to draft an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance, which will be put under consideration later this year.

According to the report, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council detailed how the city could adopt "policies providing City employees with domestic partners the same family benefits as are provided to employees with spouses, including medical insurance, dental insurance, COBRA and health insurance continuation coverage, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, family sick leave, bereavement leave, family-medical leave, the employee assistance plan and as any other family benefits offered by the City."

The report specifically asked the city to adopt an LGBT-inclusive civil rights ordinance.

Hoch, Florida's first openly gay judge, says the city won't suffer any major financial distress over offering these benefits.

"Since Boynton Beach does not pay any portion of the insurance premium for employees' dependents, these benefits will only require a minimal impact on the City's budget," Hoch said in a news release in July.

Just last August, the Town Council of Palm Beach voted to extend benefits for domestic partnerships. The fight for those benefits to be implemented was a six-year battle waged by attorney W. Trent Steele, who serves on the board of directors of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Despite pushback from some leaders, the projected cost for the Town of Palm Beach for domestic partnership benefits, which went into effect in January, is just $72,510.

Back in March, Hoch predicted that gay marriage would become legal in Florida by 2016. This could be yet another step toward seeing that prediction come to fruition.

"The Boynton Beach vice mayor and the city commissioners have taken a pro-family stance this evening by extending the same family benefits to all municipal employees," Hoch said via the news release following the commissioners' vote Tuesday night.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph