LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A south Florida town has become the first in the state to formally declare itself an LGBTQ+ sanctuary city.
In a Lake Worth Beach city commission meeting Tuesday, members voted unanimously in favor of the decision, according to a report from NBC affiliate WPTV.
City council members and advocates cited concerns from the community – particularly from parents, educators and students – regarding recently enacted legislation aimed at LGBTQ+ people.
The expanded Parental Rights in Education law, which took effect in June, further limits the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida classrooms. The restrictions originally went up to third grade, but now the law covers pre-K through eighth grade.
Lake Worth Beach Mayor Betty Resch vowed to work with the city council to create a plan of action supporting LGBTQ+ people and helping them feel safe.
“This is a crucial time for all of us to come together and stand in unity that the city is publicly making a statement, in black and white, and a resolution that it is a safe city for all of its residents,” Julie Seaver, Executive Director of Compass LGBTQ+ Community Center, told WPTV.
South Florida is considered to be more liberal than other parts of the state. Lake Worth Beach hosts Palm Beach Pride and has thriving LGBTQ-owned businesses, but advocates say the local LGBTQ+ community still needs safe spaces.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had incidents throughout Palm Beach County. We’ve had incidents here in Lake Worth Beach and to have safe spaces means a lot for people,” Rand Hoch, with the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, told WPTV. “If we can’t do anything about the people up in Tallahassee, at least we can do it here in our own backyard.”
Hoch claims the so-called anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has not only affected residents, it has also damaged Florida’s reputation.
“We are losing a lot of tourism. We’re losing a lot of business,” Hoch told WPTV. “We want to let people know that you are welcome here, if you’re gay, lesbian or trans. And that’s an important statement to make these days because what people are hearing is the exact opposite.”
Advocates in Tallahassee are also pushing for local lawmakers to declare Florida’s capital an LGBTQ+ sanctuary city.