• The Equality Act Re-introduced Today With Unanimous Support From New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional Delegation

    Garden State Equality celebrates the re-introduction of federal legislation to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination with broad New Jersey support

    Today, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. will re-introduce The Equality Act, which would provide explicit federal non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans. The bill has unanimous support from New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional Delegation and is a top legislative priority for the pro-equality majority.

    The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other related laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. The Equality Act was first introduced in 2015 and again in 2017. The Equality Act would also prohibit discrimination in credit, public education, federally-funded programs, and jury service.

    “While LGBTQ New Jerseyans enjoy commonsense legal protections against discrimination, 44% of LGBTQ Americans still live in states where it is legal to fire, deny housing, or refuse service to someone simply because of who they are or who they love,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality. “It is critical that we pass The Equality Act in Congress this session to ensure equality under the law truly means equality for all, and I am proud that New Jersey’s congressional delegation is leading the way in championing civil rights for LGBTQ Americans across the nation.”

    U.S. Senator Cory Booker is a primary sponsor of the bill, with the entire Democratic Congressional Delegation joining as co-sponsors.

    “We must end discrimination in all forms, and I’ll fight until we achieve full equality for all Americans, including members of our LGBTQ communities,” said Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01). “Every American should have a legal option when discrimination or harassment occurs – and no one should be forced to live in fear. Diversity is America’s strength and compassion is our value; the Equality Act is a clear necessity, since it would once and for all, under law, protect millions of Americans.”

    “No American should be discriminated against, fired, denied housing or refused service simply because of who they are. These lack of protections for the LGBTQ community are simply un-American and do not reflect the values of our country and our communities,” said Representative Andy Kim (NJ-03). “I am proud to co-sponsor and will be proud to vote for H.R. 5, and call on my colleagues in the House and Senate to join me in supporting this important effort to expand human rights for all Americans.”

    “Who you love shouldn’t determine if you get a bank loan, a job, or an education,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11). “Though New Jersey is a leader when it comes to equal treatment for our LGBTQ community, the fact remains that across the country it is still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans in employment, housing, and education. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Equality Act and lead this fight for fairness.”

    “I am proud that New Jersey provides legal protections for our LGBTQ friends and colleagues, but in 30 states, LGBTQ people are at risk of being fired, refused housing or denied services because of who they are,” said Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), the author of the Customer Non-Discrimination Act which is among the provisions included in the Equality Act. “The Equality Act would change that, ensuring that no one can discriminate against LGBTQ Americans anywhere, period. This is another example of the real work that we’re doing under Democratic leadership to uphold American values like fairness and the protection of human rights, values I have always and will always fight for. I look forward to working with my colleagues to finally pass this comprehensive bill.”

    “No one should ever be discriminated against, live in fear of being fired, or be denied equal basic protections under the law because of who they love,” said Representative Frank Pallone (NJ-06). “As a longtime advocate for LGBTQ equality, I am proud to help lead the fight to rid our country of this unacceptable discrimination. The Equality Act would ensure that all Americans, regardless of gender and sexual orientation, who only want to have the opportunity to work hard and earn a living, can continue to do so free from fear of discrimination.”

    "All Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, must be treated equally under the law," said Representative Jefferson Van Drew (NJ-02). "While legal protections for LGBTQ people in New Jersey were put in place in the nineties, the fact is that many states do not have laws in place to protect them from discrimination in employment, housing, & other core areas of life. Fairness and equality are core American values and it is time we finally fully end discrimination against LGBTQ Americans."

    An August 2018 poll by PRRI showed that that 71% of Americans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

    New Jersey’s nondiscrimination laws were amended in 1991 to include sexual orientation and again in 2006 to include gender identity, but a patchwork of laws across the country means 44% of the American LGBTQ population have no statewide protections from discrimination:

    • 28 states lack any nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
    • 20 states and the District of Columbia protect LGBTQ people with nondiscrimination laws covering employment, housing, and public accommodations.
    • Utah provides LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections for housing and employment but not for public accommodations.
    • Wisconsin provides nondiscrimination protections for employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.
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  • Breaking: Trump triggers transgender military ban

    I am livid.

    Donald Trump’s administration just announced its plans to begin DISCHARGING over 13,700 active transgender troops and DENY ENLISTMENT to anyone who refuses to serve in their gender "assigned at birth."

    The Trump administration’s order says discharges will begin in just thirty days on April 12. There’s no time to waste. We have to stand up and make our voices heard right now.

    Click here to sign our petition saying you stand with transgender servicemembers and oppose Donald Trump’s discriminatory and misguided transgender military ban.

    My husband is a Marine, and he’ll tell you he doesn't care who is next to him as long as they know how to shoot an M16 A4 service rifle. This ban is nothing more than a discriminatory and mean-spirited attack on transgender Americans—no better or worse than Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

    Military chiefs even testified in front of Congress that "they had seen no discipline, morale, or unit readiness problems with transgender troops serving openly in the military." But Donald Trump is barreling forward with his ban without regard to the facts.

    Click here to add your name and tell Donald Trump: I support transgender servicemembers!

    Donald Trump isn’t going to stop attacking LGBTQ Americans—and we’re never going to stop fighting back.

    Thanks for standing with us. We can't do this work without you.

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality

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  • Equality Ball 2019 tickets now on sale!

    It’s time again for our supporters, community partners, advocates, and lawmakers alike to come together in Asbury Park and celebrate Garden State Equality’s historic work at the annual Equality Ball!

    Please join us on May 31, 2019 at the Asbury Lanes for our third annual Equality Ball—our premier event and largest annual fundraiser!

    Click here to buy your tickets or sponsorship package now!

    Every day, our team is busy advocating for the LGBTQ community in our state and developing programs that will serve as models for other states, agencies, and organizations.

    Because of your support each year at the Equality Ball, Garden State Equality is able to continue this remarkable and important work.

    In a post-marriage world where many LGBTQ orgs are shrinking or shutting down, Garden State Equality is thriving as a national leader. We're doing innovative programmatic work to make our schools safer, expand access and quality of healthcare, and meet the needs of LGBTQ older adults. Plus, we're still passing transformative laws that reach and protect all New Jerseyans—including the second-in-the-nation LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum law and the historic Babs Siperstein Law.

    Click here to buy your tickets or sponsorship package to The Equality Ball:

    We look forward to seeing you again this year for another incredible event!

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  • Our strategy to defend NJ's ban on gay and trans conversion therapy at the Supreme Court

    As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, a so-called “family values” hate group is taking Garden State Equality to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge New Jersey’s ban on gay and trans conversion therapy, which we passed in 2013.

    Liberty Counsel—designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center—has an army of three hundred volunteer lawyers across the country, and they’ve been attacking LGBTQ people relentlessly since they formed in 1989. Now, they have their sights set on New Jersey. This is the same group that proudly declares that "homosexuality is wrong and unnatural" while trying to hide their hate behind the guise of "religious liberty.”

    Believe me, this is going to be a tough fight. I was the first openly gay state bar president in New Jersey history. I am admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, and I’ve submitted briefs and stood before the Court. Above all else, I’m most proud for pushing litigation in the historic Garden State Equality v. Dow case, which delivered marriage equality to New Jersey.

    Alongside me, we’ve assembled a strike team of prominent lawyers to repel this attack on our community. David Flugman of Selendy & Gay and Michael Gluck of GluckWalrath are leading the litigation at the Supreme Court for Garden State Equality, and I am joined by my fellow board member Robyn Gigl in coordinating a rapid legal response.

    We need to mount the best fight possible here. We simply cannot leave anything up to chance.

    Please rush a donation to our legal strike team right now to defend New Jersey's conversion therapy ban at the Supreme Court. Click here to contribute.

    If the Supreme Court decides to hear this case, statewide bans on conversion therapy could be repealed across the country—endangering hundreds of thousands of children. It would be a disaster for the LGBTQ community.

    The current administration is rolling back rights across the board, and Liberty Counsel is emboldened. Make no mistake, Garden State Equality is rising to fight this attack head-on.

    Conversion therapy is child abuse, plain and simple. It inflicts a grievous harm on LGBTQ kids and young adults. It has a dangerous and destructive effect on their minds and hearts. The medical community has resoundingly rejected conversion therapy, with the American Psychiatric Association on record for over two decades opposing it, going so far as to say it causes "a significant risk of harm" and "undermines self-esteem.”

    The science is clear, yet a few outliers insist on fighting for a constitutional right to irreparably abuse children and young adults.

    Click here to contribute to our legal strike team and help us protect New Jersey's conversion therapy ban. No matter what you can give, every single dollar counts in this fight.

    I'm heading back to work now. Thanks for reading—and for everything you do to protect equality.

    Thomas H. Prol, Esq.
    Board Member
    Garden State Equality

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  • NJ Conversion Therapy Ban Under Attack at the U.S. Supreme Court

    The anti-LGBTQ hate group Liberty Counsel just filed with the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn New Jersey's ban on gay and trans conversion therapy—and they’ve named Garden State Equality in their suit.

    If these radicals win at the Supreme Court, Trump’s justices could overturn New Jersey’s conversion therapy ban—and legalize this abusive practice across the country.

    There’s no time to waste: Will you rush a donation right now to help us fight back against homophobic extremists at the Supreme Court? Click here to donate.

    You know as well as I do just how destructive this discredited practice is. LGBTQ conversion therapy is child abuse, plain and simple, which is why every major medical and psychiatric association has universally rejected it as dangerous pseudoscience.

    We need your help:
    Click here to donate now

    Banning conversion therapy is settled science—and settled law. With your help, we can defeat this bigoted attack at the Supreme Court and protect children across New Jersey and the nation from this dangerous abuse.

    Every dollar counts in this fight. No matter what you can give, chip in here.

    Thanks for all you do.

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  • LGBTQ Equality At Work Symposium

    Garden State Equality to host the first annual LGBTQ Equality at Work Symposium 
    Sponsored by the FirstEnergy Foundation and Jersey Central Power & Light

    HOLMDEL, NJ - Garden State Equality (GSE) will hold the first annual LGBTQ Equality at Work Symposium to connect employees committed to diversity from companies throughout the State, with a special emphasis on LGBT-affirming practices. The event—sponsored by the FirstEnergy Foundation and Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L)—will be held on March 28, 2019, from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Bell Works Holmdel Complex, located at 101 Crawfords Corner Rd., Holmdel, NJ 07733.

    “We’re especially excited for the Equality at Work Symposium considering it’s the first of its kind in New Jersey to have such a concentrated focus on the LGBTQ community,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of GSE. “The Equality at Work Symposium will be an incredible vehicle for changemakers in the corporate world to collaborate while hearing directly from industry leaders who’ve been driving innovative practices for diversity.”

    The Equality at Work Symposium will focus on ways to improve the knowledge and effectiveness of Employee Resource Groups, affinity groups, and diversity councils with regards to LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace. The event’s agenda will include a continental breakfast, a panel of professional speakers, Q&As, and a networking luncheon.

    The daylong event will close with keynote speaker Robyn Gigl, a partner at Gluck Walrath, LLP. Gigl is a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Committee on Minority Concerns, a trustee of the NJ State Bar Foundation, and a transgender activist. She will lead a discussion on “Observations from Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling – A Trans Woman’s Perspective” at the symposium.

    "JCP&L, along with the FirstEnergy Foundation, is pleased to support unique initiatives like the Equality at Work Symposium that create a discussion and promote diversity in the workplace," said Jim Fakult, President of JCP&L. "Our organizations are stronger and better positioned for success when we embrace employees with different backgrounds, lifestyles and perspectives on the world."

    Tickets to the Equality at Work Symposium are $75.00 each and can be purchased by clicking here.

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  • Historic: 222 LGBTQ civil rights laws in New Jersey

    Two hundred. Twenty. Two. Laws.

    You read that right. We’ve passed 222 civil rights laws in New Jersey protecting the LGBTQ community. And we’re not slowing down, because there’s more work to do.

    In 2019, we’re going to ban the gay and trans panic defense, work to end LGBTQ youth homelessness, fight back against Trump’s transgender military ban, and push to pass the Equality Act. And we’ll continue our existing work for the LGBTQ community to build safe schools, expand healthcare, and support older adult populations.

    We need your help. Will you donate $25 right now to help us pass more pro-equality laws in 2019?

    In the last 12 months, we passed six new pro-equality laws that make our state stronger and safer for LGBTQ people.

    Just last week alone: Governor Murphy signed the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum bill into law—the second of its kind in the entire nation—and the historic Babs Siperstein Law went into effect, allowing transgender New Jerseyans to update their birth certificate without restrictions.

    Help us secure more pro-LGBTQ laws in New Jersey and defeat Trump’s anti-equality agenda. Will you donate right now to fund our work?

    We know this fight means just as much to you as it does to us, and that’s why we need your help. We never would have made this much historic progress without you.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Garden State Equality

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  • Garden State Equality mourns the loss of transgender activist and icon Barbra “Babs” Siperstein

    Garden State Equality mourns the loss of transgender activist and icon Barbra “Babs” Siperstein—namesake of New Jersey’s historic birth certificate law

    ASBURY PARK, NJ - Tonight, Garden State Equality has learned of the passing of transgender activist and icon Barbra “Babs” Casbar Siperstein.

    Barbra, a Jersey City native, passed away at the age of 76 on Sunday evening at RWJBarnabas Health in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She was surrounded by family, friends, and her loving partner and companion Dorothy.

    “Babs was a towering figure in the LGBTQ community who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of transgender people over the last two decades. She was an architect of our movement, pioneering critical civil rights legislation here in New Jersey and, as the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, throughout our nation. With Babs, we had an LGBTQ icon—among the likes of Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin—born and raised right here in the Garden State. With the Babs Siperstein Law in effect now, every transgender New Jerseyan who updates their birth certificate will be reminded of Babs and her courage. Babs’ work has touched countless lives and will continue to do so, and we will ensure her legacy is remembered for generations to come,” said Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino.

    “Babs— like no other—was instrumental in passing many of the 200+ LGBTQ civil rights laws and policies that Garden State Equality has secured in its fifteen year history. This is a tremendous loss for our community, and she will be sorely missed. Since the nascent days of Garden State Equality, Babs pushed us all to embrace an unmitigated pro-equality campaign that left no member of our community behind. Babs was truly unmatched and taught us all to never back down,” said Tom Prol, a longtime board member of Garden State Equality.

    Barbra’s passing comes just two days after the Babs Siperstein Law—New Jersey’s historic birth certificate law bearing her name—went into effect. The Babs Siperstein Law streamlines the process for New Jerseyans to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, removing the outdated, burdensome, and invasive “proof of surgery” requirement; adding a third gender option (“X” for non-binary/undesignated); and removing the provider certification (e.g. - letter from a therapist) and replacing it with Self Attestation.

    In 2009, Barbra became the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee, where she was appointed by then-chairman Tim Kaine. She was appointed to the Democratic National Committee's Executive Committee in 2011, where she served until October 2017.

    After coming out in 2000, Barbra was a longtime activist for LGBTQ equality in New Jersey who served as an original board member for Garden State Equality. Most notably, over the course of her advocacy in New Jersey, Barbra helped advocate for marriage equality, transgender inclusive nondiscrimination protections, and most recently the Babs Siperstein Law.

    Babs was an Army veteran, small business owner, and parent of three.

    On behalf of our board, staff, and membership, Garden State Equality extends our deepest sympathies to Barbra’s family, and we are eternally grateful for her contributions to our organization, the state of New Jersey, and LGBTQ people across our nation.

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  • New Jersey Transgender Birth Certificate Law Takes Effect Today

    Garden State Equality celebrates historic Babs Siperstein Law, which removes birth certificate restrictions for transgender and non-binary New Jerseyans

    ASBURY PARK, NJ - Beginning today, the “Babs Siperstein Law” will go into effect, allowing transgender and non-binary New Jerseyans to update their birth certificate to match their gender identity without invasive, outdated, or burdensome “proof of surgery” restrictions.

    "The Babs Siperstein law is a historic, life-changing moment for transgender New Jerseyans,” said Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino. “New Jersey has always been a leader for LGBTQ equality, and this law moves us one step further in bringing dignity, respect, and affirmation to every transgender person in our state. I’m grateful to Governor Murphy and our lawmakers—both Republicans and Democrats—for ensuring that equality reaches everyone in New Jersey.”

    The Babs Siperstein Law, named for New Jersey transgender activist Barbra “Babs” Siperstein and advocated for by Garden State Equality, was signed into law by Governor Philip Murphy on July 3, 2018.

    The law streamlines the process for New Jerseyans to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, removing the outdated, burdensome, and invasive “proof of surgery” requirement; adding a third gender option (“X” for non-binary/undesignated); and removing the provider certification (e.g. - letter from a therapist) and replacing it with Self Attestation. This allows many in our state, including transgender, intersex, and non-binary people, to have full recognition in New Jersey.

    “With the previous law, it was invasive and burdensome. You shouldn’t have to produce medical records. You shouldn’t have to say, ‘I had this surgery’ to have your identity affirmed,” said Garden State Equality Director of Policy Aaron Potenza. “Most people walk through life without their gender identity ever questioned, but when you’re forced to show your documents and they don’t reflect who you are, that incongruence invites discrimination.”

    Transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Jerseyans need access to identity documents that accurately reflect the gender they live everyday, which is not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. We all use identity documents for important tasks such as enrolling ourselves or our children in school and college, applying for a job, opening a bank account, and applying for an apartment or mortgage. At other times we are compelled to show our identity documents, such as at a routine traffic stop. Having documentation that matches one’s gender is vitally important, as mismatches between a person’s gender identity and their identity documents can and does result in discrimination and harassment.

    The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey showed that almost one third (32%) of transgender people who have shown ID’s that do not match their gender presentation had negative experiences, including verbal harassment (25%), denial of services or benefits (16%), being asked to leave (9%), and being assaulted or attacked (2%). This law will allow transgender, non-binary, and intersex New Jerseyans to access identity documents that match their lived experience, which is truly life saving.

    New Jersey now joins 15 other states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. in expanding dignity and equality to transgender people by removing “proof of surgery” requirements and becomes the 4th state to add a non-binary designation.

    For Garden State Equality’s FAQ guide on the Babs Siperstein Law and procedures for updating one’s birth certificate, please visit:

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  • LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Legislation

    Governor Phil Murphy Signs LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Legislation—Second in the Nation

    BOEs required to include and adopt instructional materials that accurately portray persons with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals.

    ASBURY PARK, NJ - Today, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law requiring Boards of Education to include instruction, and adopt instructional materials, that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

    This law would require that LGBTQ Americans, as well as Americans with disabilities, are included and recognized for their significant historic contributions to the economic, political, and social development of New Jersey and the United States. Specifically, this legislation would add LGBTQ people and individuals with disabilities to the existing list of underrepresented cultural and ethnic groups, which are covered by current law related to inclusion in textbooks and other instructional materials in schools.

    “It’s critical that our classrooms highlight the achievements of LGBTQ people throughout history. Our youth deserve to see how diverse American history truly is—and how they can be a part of it one day, too,” said Executive Director of Garden State Equality Christian Fuscarino. “I’m thankful to Governor Murphy for making New Jersey the second state in the nation to have a law promoting LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum.”

    This law would bring classroom materials into alignment with Core Curriculum Content Standards by ensuring that students receive diverse instruction in history and the social sciences, which will cultivate respect towards minority groups, allow students to appreciate differences, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to function effectively with people of various backgrounds.

    “As a former educator and someone who did their doctoral work in the history of sexuality, this bill is particularly close to my heart,” said Policy Director of Garden State Equality Aaron Potenza. “I know the importance of this history to American history as well as the impact of representation for LGBTQ identified students.”

    Garden State Equality gives thanks to coalition partners: GLSEN Central NJ, Shore Area NOW, Make it Better for Youth, and the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice for their work and collaboration on making this bill become reality. The organization gives additional thanks to the bill’s prime sponsors, Senators Loretta Weinberg, Teresa Ruiz, Assemblypersons Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Joann Downey, and former Assemblypersons Reed Gusciora and Tim Eustace.

    For more information on the Assembly Bill A1335, visit GLSEN Central New Jersey’s A1335 Fact Sheet.

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