Garden State Equality is New Jersey’s statewide advocacy and education organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
GSE, in collaboration with community partners, led efforts to ensure nondiscrimination for transgender and gender nonconforming people in NJ, pass the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the country, end sexual orientation and gender identity/expression change efforts in NJ (sometimes called conversion therapy), and bring marriage equality to the Garden State.
In this post-marriage environment, our main focuses are youth, transgender people, and seniors, and our work on those issues is informed by racial, economic, and disability justice concerns. GSE is working on campaigns to address homelessness, respectful treatment of seniors, safe environments for youth, and expansion of insurance coverage of transgender health needs. Beyond that, GSE supports NJ’s activist community by bringing an LGBT lens to the shared struggle for justice.
Garden State Equality has a deeply engaged grassroots and netroots membership – one with a significant emotional attachment to the organization. And though our budget is infinitesimal compared to our sister organizations in donor-rich states, we do everything possible to maximize every dollar – and to use our lack of bureaucracy to act rapidly, relentlessly and innovatively. Efficiency can breed ingenuity.
Garden State Equality is also the only statewide civil rights organization in America ever to be showcased in an Academy Award-winning film. “Freeheld” won the 2008 Oscar for Best Short Documentary.
Our high-intensity approach to advocacy has had its dividends. Among the over 200 LGBT civil rights laws enacted in New Jersey since Garden State Equality’s founding in 2004: America’s strongest laws to combat anti-LGBT discrimination, hate crimes and school bullying, as well as America’s strongest laws protecting the transgender community.
Garden State Equality is a national leader for transgender equality. Among our proudest achievements was the enactment of transgender anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws that passed the state legislature by margins of 102 to 8 and 110 to 10 – unprecedented bipartisan support to protect people based on their gender identity and gender expression.
In January 2011, Governor Chris Christie signed into law the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Education issued a study ranking New Jersey’s anti-bullying law #1 among the anti-bullying laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And The New York Times calls the law “the nation’s toughest law against bullying and harassment in schools.” Garden State Equality is proud to have been the architect of the law and to have led the historic statewide campaign for its passage. Today, states across America are looking to our Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights as models for their own legislation. To read more about the law and Garden State Equality’s programs for youth and to stop school bullying, click here.
To complement the new anti-bullying law, Garden State Equality has established an Anti-Bullying Helpline. Call 1 (877) NJBULLY. Call if you are a bullied student, or if you are the parent or concerned friend of a bullied student. Because Garden State Equality was the driving force behind the new law, we know it backwards and forwards – and we will help you as if our lives depended on it. We crafted the law to help students bullied for any reason, so you do not have to be LGBT to call our Anti-Bullying Hotline.
Garden State Equality’s mission is not only to win fairer laws, but also to win justice for LGBT New Jerseyans facing discrimination, for whom we have won hundreds of successful campaigns.
Some of our campaigns have become so famous, they’ve become part of New Jersey’s cultural history. They include our campaign for the late police officer Laurel Hester, whose partner had been denied death benefits because the couple was gay and could not marry. The couple’s story and Garden State Equality’s year-long fight on their behalf, which ultimately resulted in their winning the benefits, was the subject of the 2008 Academy Award-winning documentary “Freeheld.”
Just days before she died, Lt. Hester recorded this video thanking Garden State Equality:
Other successful and nationally known Garden State Equality campaigns include:
- Our campaign against teacher Viki Knox, who posted vicious anti-LGBT hatred on Facebook and, according to students, in the classroom as well;
- Our campaign on behalf of teacher Lily McBeth, whose school district tried to keep out of the classroom because she is transgender;
- Our campaign on behalf of high school student Andre Jackson, whose yearbook photo was removed by the school because the photo featured Andre kissing his boyfriend;
- Our campaign on behalf of Bob Angelini, a theater director at Ocean Township High School who faced resistance in producing “The Laramie Project” because it had an LGBT theme.
After all, the person who makes Garden State Equality’s work possible is you.