Garden State Equality is announcing the promotion of Mr. Aaron Potenza to the position of Director of Policy. From May 2015 to October 2015, Aaron served as GSE’s Anti-Bullying Organizer, overseeing advocacy and policy work in New Jersey schools on behalf of LGBT youth. In October of 2015, he was promoted to Director of Programs, a position he has held for the past three years. As Director of Programs, Aaron has overseen all of GSE’s programming initiatives. Under his direction, the organization’s programs have expanded to address issues facing LGBT people across all ages, with initiatives focused on youth, health and wellness, and older adults.
Mr. Potenza is an educator and historian by training and has taught courses on the histories of race and ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender identity at Yale University and Trinity College Hartford. He did his undergraduate work in History and Gender Studies at the University of Rhode Island and his graduate work in American Studies at Yale University. He brings a background in nonprofit management and a passion for legislative and electoral politics, public policy, and movement organizing, to the newly-created role of Director of Policy. He also brings a record of success in this area, serving as GSE’s point person on the organization’s last four legislative victories (ensuring transition-related care is covered under health plans sold in NJ; removing outdated “proof of surgery” requirement, and adding third-gender option for birth certificate gender marker changes; ensuring dignity in death by adding gender identity to death certificates; and working on the legislative and policy implementation sides of the new statewide guidance on transgender students). Aaron also recently served on Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team, as a member of the Education, Access, and Opportunity committee.
In his new role as Director of Policy, Aaron will be working to develop GSE’s legislative agenda in consultation with Board of Directors and national partners in the LGBT movement. He will be responsible for implementing the organization’s legislative agenda through meetings with legislative allies and state partners; collaborating with state agencies to implement legislative victories and develop LGBTQIA policies; managing GSE’s Municipal Equality work; managing all incoming advocacy and discrimination cases; and continuing his work with program staff on the policy components of their programs. He will also be serving as GSE’s representative on the NJ Transgender Task Force, the first interagency state Transgender Task Force in the country.
Aaron identifies as a transgender gay man and uses male pronouns. He is committed to ensuring that GSE’s legislative and policy work continues to be informed by broader racial, economic, and social justice concerns and that it is carried out in partnership with organizations and individuals who represent the diversity and the people of the State.
Letter Authored By Congressman MacArthur and Signed By Watson Coleman, LoBiondo, Norcross, and Pallone Prompts Air Force To Lift Homophobic Restriction on HIV Prevention Drug.Continue reading
A letter authored by Congressman Tom MacArthur and signed by 13 additional Congress members including New Jersey Congresspeople Bonnie Watson Coleman, Frank LoBiondo, Donald Norcross, and Frank Pallone Jr. prompted the Air Force to update its policy, allowing its pilots to take to take Truvada, a popular medication designed to prevent HIV infection commonly known as PrEP.
“The Air Force made the right call by adopting a service-wide policy that allows pilots to use PrEP, a daily medication that significantly lowers the risk of contracting HIV,” Said Congressman Tom MacArthur. “This change in policy protects the health of pilots at higher risk of becoming HIV-positive and may encourage men and women who never thought to join the Air Force to now do so. I am grateful I could lead this effort and support our nation’s LGBT service members. I’d especially like to thank the members of Garden State Equality for their advocacy in South Jersey and for bringing this issue to my attention.”
Garden State Equality believed the Air Force's policy represented an overly conservative approach that bordered on homophobia, since the medication is commonly used by gay, sexually active individuals. Meanwhile, Air Force leaders said they need time to rewrite older policies.
“The restriction on Truvada for Air Force pilots was discriminatory, as the majority of lives affected by this policy were gay people who were given no evidence to support the need for this ban.” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “We thank Congressman Tom MacArthur and the other members of Congress who supported this initiative to fight for equality amongst our troops.”
Up until the fall of 2018, the Air Force did not allow its pilots to take Truvada.
While airmen who had been denied a prescription saw the move as the Air Force indicting them under the assumption they are living a promiscuous lifestyle not in keeping with service values, Air Force officials said the previous policy was based on safety concerns.
To read the full letter, CLICK HERE
Today the New Jersey Department of Education issued guidelines affirming the rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming students in public schools across the state.
Garden State Equality is proud to have been a part of this process from the beginning. We worked hard to get this legislation passed and we worked with the Department of Education and other stakeholders as part of a working group on transgender students.
The new guidelines affirm that under state and federal law students have the right to access restrooms and other gender-segregated facilities that match their gender identity. The guidelines also state:
- that school administrators, teachers and staff must use a student’s chosen name and pronouns in verbal, written, and electronic communications
- that schools must take a student-centered approach wherein gender identity determination rests with the student
- that parental consent is not required to affirm a student’s identity
- that students must be allowed to participate in intramural and interscholastic athletics in a manner consistent with their gender identity
Our friend Rebekah Bruesehoff, a transgender activist and 6th grader in Sussex County, NJ put it best:
“As a transgender student, I've been really lucky to have my school's support. It means I can focus on my classes, my friends, and playing field hockey. I know other trans kids aren't so lucky. These guidelines change that. As a transgender student and an activist, it makes a huge difference to know that the New Jersey Department of Education and Garden State Equality have our backs and are working to make schools safer for kids like me.” Rebekah Bruesehoff, 6th grader, Sussex County
We want to thank Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joann Downey, Mila Jasey, and Benjie Wimberly; former Assemlymembers Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Marlene Caride; and Senators Teresa Ruiz and Joe Vitale for this bill. We also want to thank Commissioner Repollet and his team at the Department of Education; our friends at GLSEN Central NJ and the team at ACLU NJ, and all the other advocates, parents, educators and students who came out to share their stories and make NJ schools fairer and more equitable learning environments.
For Immediate Release
Monday, September 24th, 2018
Contact: Colin DeLucca, email@example.com, 973-509-5428
THE ASBURY HOTEL RAISES $36,000 DOLLARS FOR GARDEN STATE EQUALITY IN MEMORY OF BRIAN HOLLAND
The Asbury Hotel holds their First Annual “Asbury’s Got Talent” to raise funds for GSE and commemorate the life of Brian Holland
ASBURY PARK, NJ - On Sunday, September 16, The Asbury Hotel held its first annual “Asbury’s Got Talent” raising $36,000 for Garden State Equality (GSE), New Jersey’s largest LGBT Organization.
The Funds were donated to honor the life and legacy of Brian Holland, who served as regional director of employee experience at the hotel. Holland, 37, was struck and fatally injured last month at the Sunset Avenue train crossing.
“Garden State Equality was an organization very near and dear to Brian’s heart” Said David Bowd, part-owner and operator of The Asbury Hotel. “The Asbury’s got talent was originally organized by Brian and it was a fitting tribute that we were able to host the evening in his honor with such a tremendous financial outcome for Garden State Equality”
The event was hosted by Skeery Jones from the Elvis Duran and the Z100 Morning Show and yielded donations from Nissan and Vespa Brooklyn. The talent show displayed an array of talents amongst the The Asbury – Hotel and Lanes – staff members, ranging from broadway showstoppers to Beyonce anthems.
"Garden State Equality is so grateful for the efforts of Larry Dembrun, David Bowd, and the entire staff at The Asbury in putting together Sunday’s benefit,” Said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of GSE. “We were overjoyed by the turnout and all the incredible talent that graced the stage! A huge thank you to everyone involved in making this such a special night and to all who came out to celebrate the life & legacy of Brian Holland. Garden State Equality would be nothing without such incredible individuals like Brian who support and believe in our cause."
The funds raised at “Asbury’s Got Talent” will support the work GSE is doing in the areas of policy, education, and health. Every day, their team is busy advocating for the LGBT community in New Jersey and offering programs that can serve as models for other states, agencies, and organizations. The success of “Asbury’s Got Talent” will extend GSE’s reach in schools, youth organizations, policy, local ordinances, healthcare, and housing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Contact: Colin DeLucca
GARDEN STATE EQUALITY ACTION FUND ANNOUNCES ENDORSEMENTS
New Jersey’s Largest LGBTQ Organization Will Work to Elect Candidates Supportive of LGBTQ Rights and Combat anti-LGBTQ Trump Agenda, Names Rep. Chris Smith An Enemy of Fairness and Dignity
September 25th 2018- In light of early voting beginning in New Jersey for this November's general election, Garden State Equality Action Fund, New Jersey's largest education and advocacy organization for the LGBTQ community, today announced their endorsements in New Jersey's Congressional and local races. In issuing their endorsements, Garden State Equality notes that they will fight every second of the next few weeks to ensure that Congressman Chris Smith does not return to Washington. Smith's blatant discrimination towards the LGBTQ community, a mindset more fitting the 1950s than 2018, makes him the only congressional incumbent in New Jersey that GSE is speaking against.
"This election matters more than any in our lifetime as a community. President Trump has made his agenda clear, to set back the rights of our community by decades, to a time when we were forced to remain in the closet and had few to no protections under the law. Anti-discrimination protections - GONE! Transgender rights and military service - GONE! Rights for our Muslim brothers and sisters, our undocumented friends – GONE! Access to affordable healthcare - GONE! Trump would be a nightmare, and that’s without even addressing Vice President Pence, perhaps the most anti-LGBTQ Vice President to ever hold office.” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality.
"The quality and quantity of responses we received from candidates of all political ideologies is symbolic of how important the LGBTQ community is in New Jersey," said Chris Donnelly, Chair of GSE's Action Fund Board. "That importance, however, cannot be ignored nor taken for granted on our end. Tweets and Facebook posts lamenting the current state of politics is not going to do it this time. Let no one wake up on November 7 wishing or hoping they had done more. We need everyone knocking on doors, making phone calls, and getting their family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, casual acquaintances...everyone we know, to the polls to cast their vote."
Here is the full list of Garden State Equality’s Action Fund endorsements and openly LGBTQ candidates:
U.S. SENATOR: Bob Menendez
As a proven leader who stood up for the LGBTQ community for years, Bob Menendez is the clear choice for New Jersey’s fair-minded voters and LGBTQ residents. Senator Menendez has shown himself to be an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community. In his interview with Garden State Equality, Menendez not only spoke passionately of his ground-breaking work 30+ years ago advancing hate crimes and anti-bias laws to protect the LGBTQ community, but also of the personal sting of discrimination that he experienced as a Hispanic minority in his youth.
We acknowledge the Senator’s opponent, Bob Hugin, and his recent efforts to embrace the LGBTQ community by stating his support for marriage equality, attending the GSE Equality Ball, and sitting down with our community for a roundtable.
District 1: Donald Norcross
District 2: No Endorsement
Seth Grossman’s history of racist, sexist and anti LGBTQ comments is sickening. While we believe overall that this district would be better represented by State Senator Jeff Van Drew, neither candidate filled out our questionnaire, neither has a 100% track record on LGBTQ issues and neither has made an effort to reach out to our community on issues of importance to us. Therefore, we offer no endorsement in this race.
District 3: No Endorsement
Congressman Tom MacArthur is by far one of the most pro-LGBTQ Republicans in the nation and has proven a steadfast ally to the LGBTQ community. Yet, Congressman MacArthur’s support of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act unequivocally puts members of the LGBTQ community at risk. While his opponent, Andy Kim, lacks a track record in elected office, he has expressed full support for LGBTQ causes and issues. Andy Kim and Tom MacArthur are both allies to our community. We note that Mr. Kim returned a questionnaire that indicated he will support the LGBTQ community, and Congressman MacArthur explained in extensive detail how he already has.
District 4: Josh Welle
We raise Josh Welle up as our must-win candidate in the 4th Congressional District, not just because his opponent is an enemy of freedom and equality for the LGBTQ community, but because Welle has committed himself to restoring the integrity of the 4th District and respecting all his constituents including the LGBTQ community. Smith brags openly of his disdain for our community's civil rights and actually said out loud that an orphanage is preferable for raising a child over a gay or lesbian couple. We rid the 5th District of Smith’s Congressional partner-in-hate, Scott Garrett, during the last election, and now it is time to pop the Congressional zit that is Chris Smith. All hands on deck for electing Josh Welle, who has Garden State Equality’s full support and should have yours.
District 5: Josh Gottheimer
District 6: Frank Pallone
District 7: No Endorsement
We acknowledge that Congressman Lance has been a proven ally to our community in recent years and has taken up supportive causes that have put him, thankfully, out of step with other anti-equality Republicans. However, his opponent, Tom Malinowski, has a proven track record under the Obama Administration and throughout his distinguished career in public service protecting LGBTQ rights around the world. Malinowski has indicated his full, unequivocal support of transgender service members, among other important LGBTQ civil rights issues. During Malinowski’s service as Assistant Secretary of State, Human Rights and Labor, he led the nation’s efforts to promote the human rights of LGBTQ people by establishing the Global Equality Fund to support LGBTQ rights advocacy and the position of Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTQ Persons.
District 8: Albio Sires
District 9: Bill Pascrell
District 10: Donald Payne Jr.
District 11: Mikie Sherrill
District 12 : Bonnie Watson-Coleman
Monmouth County Freeholder: Amber Gesslein
Middletown Township Committee: Tricia Maguire
Neptune City Town Council: Meghan Huryk
Westwood Town Council: Alyssa Dawson
Flemington Mayor: Betsy Driver
Union County Freeholder: Rebecca Williams
Barnegat Township Committee: Dan Ward
Lambertville Mayor: Julia Fahl
Sussex County Freeholder: Patrick Curreri
Evesham Town Council: Patricia Hansen
Garden State Equality Action Fund also believes that it has a responsibility to share with our members a list of LGBTQ self-disclosed candidates, whether or not they received an endorsement. We encourage you to support all LGBTQ candidates who support our community:
Alyssa Dawson, Westwood Council
Betsy Driver, Flemington Mayor
Bobby Tullock, Boonton Council
Bryna Elder, Union Township Council
Caitlin Giles-McCormick, Flemington Council
Dan Ward, Barnegat Township Committee
Julia Fahl, Lambertville Mayor
Len Resto, Chatham Councilman
Meghan Huryk, Neptune City Council
Pat Hansen, Evesham Council
Patrick Curreri, Sussex County Freeholder
Rebecca Williams, Union County Freeholder
Rich Rockwell, Bloomfield Council
Robert Crook, Congressman in the 11th Congressional District
Tami Peterson, Frenchtown Borough Council
Thos Shipley, Roselle Park Councilman
Garden State Equality Joins Let’s Drive NJ Campaign to Expand Access to Driver’s Licenses for More ResidentsContinue reading
Garden State Equality Joins Let’s Drive NJ Campaign to Expand Access to Driver’s Licenses for More Residents
GSE stands in solidarity with New Jersey residents and families who do not have access to driver's licenses
Garden State Equality is proud to stand in solidarity with New Jersey residents and families who do not have access to driver’s licenses in our state where driving is a necessity. We strongly support allowing all qualified residents, regardless of immigration status, to have access to a driver’s license. Our vision for a more just and equal future is one that celebrates everyone who calls New Jersey home, including those who are often unjustly left out of being able to fully participate in our communities. The LGBT movement has long held that the marginalization of one group of people quickly leads to the marginalization of other groups.
As one of the most diverse states in the country, New Jersey is uniquely situated to be a model for a more welcoming and equal society. That is why we are so excited to work with the Let’s Drive NJ campaign to expand access to driver’s licenses to more qualified residents in New Jersey. The organizers have been proactive in making sure that the campaign is welcoming to all, including transgender, gender nonconforming people, non-binary people, survivors of domestic violence, formerly incarcerated individuals, immigrants, homeless, low income residents, and those who live at the intersections of these experiences.
At Garden State Equality we understand the importance of licenses and other identity documents in a person’s ability to fully participate in society. A driver’s license is a necessity in New Jersey, especially in areas where public transit is not accessible. Without access to a driver’s license, members of our communities are struggling to be able to live their daily lives to the fullest.
The Let’s Drive NJ campaign is advocating for access to driver’s licenses for more residents who are currently being unfairly left out of being able to participate fully in our communities. In order to value the lives of our community members and neighbors, Garden State Equality supports expansion of access to driver’s licenses for more New Jersey resident who can prove their residency, identity, and are properly trained and tested.
The Appellate Division of the NJ Superior Court has issued a groundbreaking decision on Friday in favor of gay and lesbian couples and their children. The Court agreed with arguments made by Garden State Equality in the case, holding in a published decision that “our laws, both legislatively and through judicial decisions, now recognize and protect the rights of LGBTQ people to equal dignity and treatment under law.” Garden State Equality argued as a friend of the court, seeking full equality for same-sex couples and their families.
The case dealt with the sad circumstance of the death of young girl in early 2009 who was hit by a truck while walking to see “Disney on Ice” in Trenton with her mothers, a lesbian couple who since that time have married. Marriage equality only became legal in New Jersey in 2013 as a result of the landmark lawsuit, Garden State Equality v. Dow.
New Jersey law allows a person to bring a lawsuit against someone who causes the death or serious physical injury of a close relative if they witness it, as happened here. The trial judge ruled that the non-biological mother, who was called “mom” by, and was holding the hand of the girl when she died, was merely a “lover” of the biological mother and, therefore, not a relative of the girl.
Garden State Equality pushed back to argue that same-sex couples and their children are, indeed, families, regardless of whether or not they have a biological connection. We asked the court for dignity and equality for this and every same-sex couple and their children, and the court granted it, saying “our fellow citizens now unequivocally reject this shameful, morally untenable bigotry.”
We are grateful to our legal counsel in this matter, Jennifer Hamilton, Esq., as well as the NJ State Bar Association, which has argued forcefully for our community’s equality for many years. Thomas H. Prol, Esq., the first openly gay president of the state bar and a Garden State Equality executive board member, appeared and argued for equality. We thank the couple’s attorney, Robin Kay Lord, Esq., for her incredible persistence and advocacy for this couple and their rights.
PSEG FOUNDATION FUNDS NEW POSITION TO FOCUS SAFE SCHOOL EFFORTS IN NORTH JERSEY
ASBURY PARK, NJ - Garden State Equality (GSE) will be bringing on their newest team member, Dr. Tyree Oredein, as the Safe Schools Coordinator for North Jersey. The program is being funded by a grant awarded to GSE by PSEG Foundation.
With demand for GSE’s Teach and Affirm Program increasing, the hiring of their second Safe Schools Coordinator will enable the organization to visit even more schools and develop more outreach materials and curricular resources in the upcoming school year.
“We are confident that having two Safe Schools Coordinators will also enhance our ability to host more special activities, such as our youth caucus program, new Library Series, our Educators for Equality program, and education conferences that extend our reach,” said Denise Rodriguez, Garden State Equality Director of Development. “We know that youth are influenced by their peers, and creating additional projects and activities that are youth-directed will bolster our message of inclusion and effectuate even greater positive changes in the communities we serve across New Jersey.”
In October of 2017, GSE hired a Safe Schools Coordinator, Ashley Chiappano, who enhanced their anti-bullying program, Teach and Affirm, and expanded their reach to more schools and youth-based organizations across New Jersey. Since bringing on Chiappano less than a year ago, their Safe Schools Program has provided over 70 workshops, trainings, and information sessions that have reached hundreds of youth, parents, community leaders, and educators across the State.
Despite a substantial amount of progress, GSE still looks to expand their work further in NJ schools. Moving forward, the organization anticipates making additional developments in the area of their anti-bullying programming, along with continued outreach to schools. Having a second Safe Schools Coordinator designated to North Jersey provides GSE a broader reach to school districts and other youth-based organizations.
Dr. Oredein has an extensive background in creating and ensuring safe spaces for sexual minority youth in academic, professional, social service, and community settings. Since 2005, she has delivered hundreds of Professional Development training workshops to more than 5,000 administrators, educators, social service & medical providers, police officers, correction officers, graduate and undergraduate students, high school students, peer educators, and community members.
Additionally, Dr. Oredein has facilitated numerous workshops on HIV/AIDS, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), STIs, sexuality, healthy relationships, media and health literacy, and other pertinent topics affecting youth. She has visited K through 12 settings to deliver presentations on anti-bullying and acceptance in an effort to create safer spaces in schools and has been a fixture at various LGBTQIA+ youth forums and summits across New Jersey. She also sits on the Board of Directors for Say Ah!, a non-profit agency dedicated to increasing health literacy, and she is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University in the Department of Public Health.
Dr. Oredein, who received her Doctorate of Public Health (Dr.P.H.) from Rutgers University, her Masters of Public Health (M.P.H) from Hunter College, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Wellesley College, began her work as the GSE Safe Schools Coordinator for North Jersey on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.
This past Tuesday, Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady, Tammy Murphy, hosted a Pride Reception at the Governor’s mansion in Princeton.
The event was filled with LGBTQ advocates and allies, gathering together to commemorate an astounding Pride Season and a multitude of progressive accomplishments that have taken place in the recent months.
Included in these accomplishments are the passing of the Babs Siperstein Law, the Death Certificate Bill, and the Transgender Task Force.
Among the guests were the evening’s Champions of Equality Award recipients, Babs Siperstein, Tim Eustace, and Rebecca Williams. These advocates were nominated for this award because of their work to increase LGBTQ visibility in our state.
Garden State Equality would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to Governor Murphy and the first lady for hosting such a wonderful and important event. New Jersey is proud to have a governor who celebrates the LGBTQ community and believes in true equality.
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