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Discrimination in New Jersey

Garden State Equality is known and respected – and sometimes feared – for our passion in obtaining justice for individuals who have faced discrimination, harassment or other oppression in New Jersey because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  If you are the victim of anti-LGBT conduct in New Jersey, Garden State Equality is the place to go.  Please email us at Discrimination@GardenStateEquality.org with your name, home town and cell phone number, or call us at (973) GSE-LGBT. All information will be kept confidential.

This web page focuses on discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, and credit and business transactions.  To be clear, there is massive discrimination in New Jersey based on civil union status, a protected category under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Too many employers across New Jersey refuse to recognize civil unions as equal to marriage and do not grant equal benefits to partners of employees – including basic health insurance. That’s devastating in this economy. Too many hospitals across New Jersey also do not respect civil unions and do not allow civil union partners to make medical decisions for one another or even visit one another in the hospital.

To read more about the discrimination against civil union couples and how New Jersey’s civil union law falls short of marriage equality, visit our web page on marriage equality.

Many of you will recall Garden State Equality’s historic battle on behalf of police Lieutenant Laurel Hester, who was dying of cancer and wanted her death benefits to go to her partner Stacie. The county refused to allow Lieutenant Hester to pass the benefits onto Stacie because they were a same-sex couple who could not marry in the State of New Jersey. The county refused to consider them spouses. Garden State Equality fought the county for a year on the streets, in the media and in the courthouse, and ultimately won justice for Lieutenant Hester.

Garden State Equality’s fight was the subject of the documentary Freeheld, which in 2008 became the first-ever Academy Award®-winning film to chronicle the work of an statewide advocacy organization. Days before she died, Lieutenant Hester recorded this video thanking Garden State Equality.

Garden State Equality led the fight for Lily McBeth, a valiant South Jersey teacher who overcame the hateful protests of bigoted parents who tried to keep her out of the classroom because she was transgender. Our organization generated massive counterprotests and international coverage on McBeth’s behalf. The school board’s ultimate decision to keep McBeth – recognizing she was the same great teacher she’d always been – was a groundbreaking triumph.

Garden State Equality was also proud to secure justice for Andre Jackson, a Newark high school student whose yearbook photo was blocked out with markers prior to distribution merely because he was kissing his boyfriend. School officials found that “inappropriate.” When Garden State Equality got involved, the school district backed down and redistributed yearbooks with the photo of Jackson and his boyfriend untouched.

And Garden State Equality stood by the side of the courageous students of the Robbinsville High School Gay-Straight Alliance, who were appalled, like the rest of us, that a school board official would use an anti-LGBT epithet. After weeks of pressure, he stepped down.

That is just a tiny sample of the thousands of people we have helped over the years, all while continuing to educate the citizens of New Jersey about the discrimination that New Jersey’s LGBT citizens continue to face daily.

Here is more information about specific kinds of discrimination you may face. These are excerpts from the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, to which we extend our gratitude.


The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) is the oldest statewide anti-discrimination law in the country – and many consider it to be the strongest and most inclusive.  The LAD has protected LGBT people on the basis of “affectional or sexual orientation” since 1993 and on the basis of “gender identity or expression” since 2007 – an addition to the law which Garden State Equality won.  The Law Against Discrimination bars discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and credit and other business transactions, against an individual because of race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership status, civil union status, gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including HIV and AIDS.

The Law Against Discrimination encompasses not only actual sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, but also perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.


Employers may not intentionally discriminate in any job-related action, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, promotions and discharge, nor in the terms, conditions and privileges of employment, on the basis of any of the law’s specified protected categories. Intentional discrimination may take the form of differential treatment or statements and conduct that reflect discriminatory animus or bias.

In addition, employers may not unintentionally discriminate through “neutral” requirements for job-related qualifications that have a disparate negative impact on protected classes – unless there is a proven legitimate business need that cannot be served through an alternative non-discriminatory measure.


The Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination when selling or renting property. The law covers owners, agents, employees and brokers and makes it unlawful to refuse to rent, show or sell property based on protected categories. The LAD does not, however, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex where the property is planned exclusively for and occupied exclusively by individuals of one sex.

Landlords may require that a potential tenant complete an application with questions regarding the applicant’s income, credit history and debts, as long as all prospective tenants are required to complete the same application and all tenants are selected on the basis of uniform standards. The form must not contain any reference to protected categories.


The LAD prohibits an owner, manager, or employee of any place that offers goods, services and facilities to the general public, such as a restaurant, hotel, doctor’s office, camp, or theater, from directly or indirectly denying or withholding any accommodation, service, benefit, or privilege to an individual related to the law’s protected categories. Further, individuals accompanied by a guide or service dog are entitled to full and equal access to all places of public accommodation.

There are certain exceptions.  Places of public accommodation which, by their nature, are reasonably restricted to individuals of one gender, such as dressing rooms or gymnasiums, may deny access to the accommodation to members of the other gender.  But note:  This exception does not allow discrimination against transgender individuals, who must be allowed to use facilities for people of the gender with which they identify.

The provisions of the LAD that govern public accommodations do not apply to a place of public accommodation that is “in its nature distinctly private” or to schools operated by bona fide religious institutions.  However, it is unlawful for a private club or association to discriminate against a member with respect to the advantages and privileges of membership on the basis of protected categories.


The LAD prohibits discrimination based its protected categories in buying from, selling to, contracting with, or otherwise doing business with, another person.  The LAD similarly prohibits such discrimination based on the protected categories of the spouse, domestic partner, civil union partner, employees, business associates, suppliers or customers of another person.

It is also unlawful for any bank or financial institution to deny credit or particular terms of a credit transaction, such as loan rates, to an individual based on any of the LAD’s protected categories.

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