New Jersey is second to no other state in the strength of its anti-discrimination laws that encompass sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. When we achieve marriage equality, New Jersey will have the most LGBT-inclusive laws in the country.
But notwithstanding the landmark speed with which our community has made civil rights progress, too many LGBT individuals in New Jersey continue to face harassment and life-threatening violence. The laws we have passed may have removed many of the legal obstacles to equality, but prejudicial hate still threatens the lives of New Jersey’s LGBT community every day.
If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please email us at HateCrimes@GardenStateEquality.org with your name and phone number, or call us at (973) GSE-LGBT. All information will be kept confidential.
Crimes based a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression are perpetrated throughout every year in our state, like in the rest of the nation and the world. But many of these crimes are not reported properly because local governments and police departments refuse to record hate crimes for what they are: Egregious violations of our state’s intention to protect all citizens equally from intimidation based on who they are.
In 2007, for instance, the City of Newark reported zero hate crimes against LGBT people despite constant reports – both anecdotally and in the news – about the violent crimes committed against members of the LGBT community. Newark only reported one hate crime based on race in 2007 despite being New Jersey’s most predominately African American major city.
That is emblematic of Newark’s historic and outrageous refusal to classify hate crimes for what they are. Click here to see the FBI report on hate crimes in New Jersey.
In June of 2009, the City Council of Newark passed an ordinance establishing a commission to investigate the issues that face Newark’s LGBT community – a monumental first step – which promises to begin the long struggle of eradicating anti-LGBT hate.
We thank our colleagues in Newark who have worked tirelessly to help effectuate such change, including the Newark Pride Alliance, the Newark-Essex Pride Coalition, the African-American Office of Gay Concerns, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative, NJCRI’s Project WOW! Youth Center, the Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church and the Sakia Gunn Film Project.
Indeed, our sisters and brothers who are both LGBT and African-American are at double risk for being victimized by hate crimes – and at triple risk if they are women. The hate-crime murders of African-American lesbians Sakia Gunn and Shani Baraka in May and August 2003 respectively became rallying cries to achieve safety, justice and equality for all. LGBT community leaders in Newark and their allies, among our state’s greatest heroes, have worked tirelessly to fill the void of sufficient government action to prevent hate crimes. In 2009, Newark’s LGBT community persuaded the city council and Mayor Cory Booker to enact a law creating a new city commission on LGBT issues.
Make no mistake: Hate is not human nature. It is a learned behavior, and one we can eradicate though inclusive educational policies.
Garden State Equality wrote the changes enacted in 2008 to our state’s anti-school bullying law, which will directly impact how schools deal with acts of bias and intimidation or violence that occur on their premises.
By establishing the New Jersey Commission on Bullying in Schools to examine critically the historic blind eye that schools have turned to anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, the state has accepted responsibility for the welfare of all citizens regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Garden State Equality is now working on strengthening the anti-bullying law yet again.
Again, if you have been the victim of a hate crime, please email us at HateCrimes@GardenStateEquality.org with your name and phone number or call us at (973) GSE-LGBT.