LATEST UPDATES

  • Garden State Equality Endorses Mayor Pete

    We will vote in the most important election of our lifetime this November.

    As a nonpartisan organization, it is standing policy that Garden State Equality Action Fund does not endorse candidates during primaries. But in this election against Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the stakes couldn’t be higher, and choosing to endorse a candidate this cycle was not a decision we took lightly.

    Over the last year, our board of directors has deliberated and studied the policies, public comments, and positions of each candidate who is running to defeat the Trump-Pence administration.

    With a unanimous vote, Garden State Equality Action Fund is endorsing Mayor Pete for President of the United States.

    Please join us in making history this November by saying you’re all in for Mayor Pete! Click here to add your name.

    Mayor Pete’s visionary, robust agenda for LGBTQ equality perfectly aligns with Garden State Equality’s policy priorities for New Jersey and is the most detailed and innovative blueprint for advancing equality nationwide.

    From reforming HIV criminalization laws to expanding access to HIV-prevention drugs like PrEP/PEP — in addition to ending the blanket ban on blood donation — Mayor Pete has put forward evidence-based solutions to fight stigma and end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2030.

    As hate crimes and violence against trans women of color increase nationwide, he’s committed to rebuilding the bridge of trust between law enforcement and our community with bias trainings for officers and strict enforcement of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

    More importantly, Mayor Pete has put youth front-and-center in his agenda, including banning ‘conversion’ therapy nationwide, passing the LGBTQ Suicide Prevention Act, funding youth homelessness, and reinstating protections for transgender youth in schools that were callously rescinded by the Trump-Pence administration.

    Make no mistake, Mayor Pete’s campaign is absolutely historic. He has thrown the doors of the closet wide open. Many in our community never would have imagined seeing an openly LGBTQ candidate come this close to the White House in our lifetimes, and because of his courage and bravery, the next generation of youth will know they are safe, free, and welcomed in this world.

    Because of the current administration, America’s LGBTQ community is fighting back against a never-ending onslaught of discriminatory and divisive policies.

    If you’re committed to defeating Donald Trump and Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ agenda and making history by electing Mayor Pete as the next President of the United States, add your name!

    We're excited to see the strongest slate of pro-LGBTQ candidates of our lifetime running for President in 2020, but reclaiming the White House in November requires a leader who can reach voters in every corner of America with a message that inspires a broad coalition to protect and secure equality for all.

    We firmly believe that person is Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality Action Fund

    Continue reading
  • Join us at The Equality Soiree on March 6

    We’re going to close out the winter season in style with a party you’ll never forget.

    Please join us for an evening of glitz and glamor at our inaugural Equality Soiree in Jersey City on Friday, March 6 at 7:00 pm!

    To celebrate this exciting new event, we’re offering EARLY BIRD tickets until February 14. Click here to buy your tickets now!

    The Equality Soiree will be hosted at The Ashford in downtown Jersey City, just a few steps from the PATH station. Your ticket to our premier event includes an open bar with dazzling cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.

    Attire: Winter Festive — white and/or sequin encouraged.

    After February 14, Early Bird tickets will end and space is limited — so don’t wait! Click here to buy your tickets today.

    We’ll see you at The Equality Soiree.

    Continue reading
  • LGBTQ-Inclusive Paid Family Leave in New Jersey

    No one should have to choose between the people they love and the job they need, and now in New Jersey, you won’t have to.

    Last year, Governor Murphy signed landmark legislation to expand New Jersey’s paid family leave program with LGBTQ-inclusive protections!

    Whether you're married or in a civil union — or not married at all — you can take time off to care for your partner, your closest loved ones, or your children.

    With our partners at NJ Citizen Action and NJ Time to Care, we’re launching a public education campaign to let LGBTQ New Jerseyans know why this law is so critical to building a stronger, fairer New Jersey — and how they and their families will benefit.

    If you or your family has ever needed to use paid family leave — or previously couldn’t or were afraid to — share your personal story with us! Click here to get started.

    Compared to the general population, LGBTQ people are much more likely to need to take time off to care for a loved one to whom they’re not legally or biologically tied, and under this new law, you can.

    This is an important step forward to ensuring that working LGBTQ families in New Jersey can protect and provide for the people they love. Help us spread by the word about LGBTQ-inclusive paid family leave by sharing your story with us today.

    Thank you,

    Alisha De Lorenzo
    Interim Deputy Director
    Garden State Equality

    PS — For more information on New Jersey's paid family leave law, visit our resource center here.

    Continue reading
  • Gov. Murphy signs “panic” defense ban!

    Friend, we did it. Governor Murphy just signed our bill to ban the gay+trans “panic” defense, making New Jersey the 9th state in the nation to outlaw this discriminatory legal malpractice!

    Up until today, murderers had a legal strategy in their pocket allowing them to put the blame on an LGBTQ person for their violent, deadly crime. But no more. Not in the Garden State.

    Thanks to members like you, we’re off to a blistering start in 2020. Gov. Murphy signed a law streamlining gender marker changes for drivers licenses (plus, adding a nonbinary gender marker!), and last week, he signed a landmark bill to simplify adoptions for LGBTQ parents. Now, the "panic" defense is banned once and for all.

    Will you help fuel our campaign for the work ahead in 2020 by making a $20 contribution today? Click here to get started!

    In this year’s legislative session, we’ll be fighting for so much more. With your help, we plan to:

    • Pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults living in long-term care.
    • Make HIV-prevention drugs such as PrEP/PEP available over-the-counter without a prescription.
    • Reform New Jersey’s archaic and outdated HIV criminalization laws.
    • Mandate sexual orientation and gender identity data collection across state agencies.
    • Secure state funding for homeless LGBTQ youth.
    • Ban medically unnecessary surgical treatment for newborns with intersex conditions.

    While the Trump-Pence administration is rolling back our rights day after day, you can count on New Jersey to protect you and keep moving equality forward.

    Thanks for being a member of Garden State Equality.

    Jon Oliveira
    Director of Communications & Membership
    Garden State Equality

    PS — When it comes to protecting equality, every dollar counts. No matter what you can give, please chip in by clicking here!

    Continue reading
  • Gov. Murphy Signs Ban on Gay+Trans “Panic” Defense for Murder Charges

    New Jersey becomes 9th state to outlaw discriminatory legal strategy

    For Immediate Release January 21, 2020

    Media contact: Jon Oliveira, Director of Communications, oliveira@gardenstateequality.org

    Today, Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation to ban the gay and trans “panic” defense, a legal strategy in a murder charge case which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction.

    “Make no mistake, the ‘panic’ defense is flat-out discriminatory legal malpractice, and no one should ever be excused from murder because their victim is gay or transgender,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director for Garden State Equality. “As hate crimes against LGBTQ New Jerseyans continue to rise and trans people are murdered across the nation, it’s more imperative than ever that we ensure our criminal justice system protects LGBTQ people equally — full stop. Thank you to Governor Murphy for signing this ban into law and sending an unequivocal message that we fully value the lives and dignity of LGBTQ people in New Jersey.”

    “Transgender women of color are victims to murder, violence, and harassment every day of our lives simply for living authentically as ourselves,” said La’Nae Grant, a transgender advocate from East Orange. “We deserve to live with dignity and safety in our communities. Knowing that the ‘panic’ defense is banned in New Jersey is another victory and moment of empowerment for black trans women like myself, but there’s still more work to do for our community.”

    As part of its federal agenda, Garden State Equality is working with its partners in the Congress and Senate to advocate for a nationwide ban on the “panic” defense.

    When the “panic” defense is employed, the perpetrator claims that their victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains — but excuses — their loss of self-control and subsequent assault. The new law would prevent a murder charge in such a case from being reduced or acquitted.

    Gay and trans “panic” defenses have been used to acquit dozens of murderers of their crimes. In New Jersey, the defense has been used at least once unsuccessfully. Even in instances where juries are instructed not to listen to gay and trans “panic” defenses, the implicit homophobic or transphobic bias of hearing the defense at all can still influence the jury’s decision.

    In 2019, at least 30 transgender Americans were reported killed. The FBI reported that hate crimes in New Jersey increased for the third consecutive year, with LGBTQ people making up a disproportionate amount of victims. In November, Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced policy changes for law enforcement to protect LGBTQ New Jerseyans following the Transgender Equality Task Force’s final report and recommendations.

    In 2019, five states outlawed the “panic” defense, including Maine, New York, Hawaii, Nevada, and Connecticut. Three other states have previously outlawed the discriminatory legal strategy: California (2014), Illinois (2017), and Rhode Island (2018).

    In New Jersey’s upcoming legislative session, Garden State Equality will be advocating to make HIV-prevention drugs like PrEP/PEP available over-the-counter without a prescription, reform New Jersey’s HIV criminalization laws, secure funding for LGBTQ youth homelessness, pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults, implement policy recommendations from the NJ Transgender Equality Task Force, among other items.

    Former Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora initially introduced and sponsored legislation in 2014-2015 to ban the “panic” defense. A1796 / S2609 was sponsored in the Senate by Joseph Lagana, Vin Gopal, Troy Singleton, and Loretta Weinberg.

    ###

    Continue reading
  • Gov. Murphy expands adoption access for LGBTQ parents!

    As a mother, I’m absolutely elated today: Governor Murphy just signed legislation that will expand adoption access for LGBTQ parents!

    When I went through the process of adopting my child a few years ago, it was a costly and legal nightmare: background checks, attorney fees, judicial hearings, home visits. The list — and bills — were never-ending.

    Now in New Jersey, prospective parents who are LGBTQ can bypass the arduous, expensive confirmatory adoption process. Click here to read our resource kit and learn more!

    It’s critical that New Jersey promotes strong family structures with LGBTQ-inclusive policies, and with Governor Murphy’s signature on this landmark legislation, parents can fully focus on building, protecting, and providing for their families.

    None of this would have been possible without the hard work from community advocates Danni Newbury, Christy Wilson, Bill Singer, Esq., and Debra E. Guston, Esq. — as well as bill sponsors Senators Scutari, Codey, Greenstein, Gopal, and Ruiz and Assemblypersons Huttle, Quijano, and Kennedy.

    This law will truly change the lives of our families for the better. Thanks for helping us make it happen and fighting with us day after day for LGBTQ families.

    With gratitude,

    Alisha De Lorenzo
    Interim Deputy Director
    Garden State Equality

    Continue reading
  • Our LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum pilot program starts today.

    This is huge:

    Starting today, we’re kicking off LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in twelve New Jersey public schools who are participating in our new curriculum pilot program.

    Over the last year, our team has been hard at work developing a robust set of lesson plans that will teach the next generation of youth about the political, social, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people. And this isn’t just history class: we’ve developed lessons that promote inclusion across all relevant subject areas.

    If you'd like to learn more about our pilot program, click here!

    Our pilot program begins today and will last until the end of the current school year. We’re also providing each school with professional development trainings, parent education workshops, and a curriculum coach to support them over the next six months. The following twelve schools will be participating:

    • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Asbury Park
    • Forrestdale School in Rumson
    • Haddon Heights Junior-Senior High School (middle and high school)
    • Highland Park Middle School
    • Highland Park High School
    • Millburn Middle School
    • Newark Arts High School
    • Pinelands Regional Junior High School in Tuckerton
    • Bergen Arts and Science Charter High School in Hackensack
    • Chartertech High School for the Performing Arts in Somers Point
    • Unity Charter School in Morristown

    When the law goes into effect this fall, every middle and high school in the state will begin integrating these topics into classrooms, and we’ll be offering every district across New Jersey our curriculum at no cost.

    Our youth deserve to see themselves reflected in the classroom, and we know the work we’re doing is going to change the lives of LGBTQ students for the better.

    Thank you to our partners at Make It Better for Youth and all of the curriculum writers for working alongside us to develop this historic curriculum, and thank you to the Braitmayer Foundation and PSEG Foundation for funding this critical work.

    Most importantly: thank you for making all of this possible.

    This is just the beginning. There will be much more to come.

    Ashley Chiappano
    Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
    Garden State Equality

    Continue reading
  • VICTORY! “Panic” defense ban heads to Gov. Murphy’s desk!

    We just made history in the Garden State.

    Moments ago, the New Jersey Senate voted to approve our ban on the gay and trans “panic” defense — a legal strategy that allows a murderer to put the blame on an LGBTQ person for their violent, deadly crime.

    Thanks to you, our bill is now on its way to Governor Murphy’s desk for his signature, and New Jersey is poised to become the 9th state in the nation to outlaw this discriminatory legal malpractice.

    As you probably know from my past messages, we didn’t expect to pass this bill until next year, but thanks to the support of members like you and the leadership of our allies in the legislature, we were able to swiftly move this legislation through ahead of schedule.

    Will you help us keep the momentum for LGBTQ equality going into 2020 and make a $20 contribution — or whatever you can give — right now? Click here to donate.

    We’re not slowing down after this victory because we still have so much more to do in 2020.

    Next year, we will be advocating to reform New Jersey’s HIV criminalization laws, secure funding for LGBTQ youth homelessness, pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults, implement policy recommendations from the NJ Transgender Equality Task Force, and so much more.

    From passing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to banning the “panic” defense, 2019 has been an incredible year of success on behalf of LGBTQ New Jerseyans. Thank you so much for standing with us and making it happen.

    Onward,

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality Action Fund

    Continue reading
  • NJ Transgender Equality Task Force: Final Report & Findings

    Today marks International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time when we gather to recognize, honor, and mourn the people in our community who we’ve lost to anti-trans violence and bigotry.

    As of today, at least 30 known transgender Americans have been murdered, and across the globe, that number exceeds 330. With hate crimes against LGBTQ people on the rise in New Jersey, we’re acutely focused on building a more affirming culture in our state with policies and protections to ensure that transgender New Jerseyans can live with safety and dignity.

    That’s why I’m happy to share with you that New Jersey’s Transgender Equality Task Force just released its groundbreaking final report and recommendations, and it’s going to change the lives of transgender people in our state for generations to come.

    Click here to read the NJ Transgender Equality Task Force’s final report and recommendations!

    Because of a law we passed last year, New Jersey is the first state in the nation to have a Transgender Equality Task Force. Its mission: to study the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender individuals in New Jersey and provide concrete policy prescriptions for the governor, legislature, and state agencies to enact.

    After six months of deliberative work, community meetings, and significant research, the Task Force has developed an innovative blueprint for advancing transgender equality in New Jersey — and numerous concrete actions are already in motion.

    Today, Governor Murphy announced that his administration will be closely examining all of the recommendations put forth by the Task Force, which include the following:

    • Collection of SOGI Data: The Task Force recommended that the State begin to collect sexual orientation or gender identity data across state agencies.
    • Training at State Agencies: The report recommends anti-discrimination training for state employees on how to serve transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people, ensuring both compliance with the law and greater access to programs to services.
    • Public Outreach: The Task Force recommends that certain state agencies engage in strategic outreach to transgender communities, including the creation and dissemination of “Know Your Rights” materials related to the Law Against Discrimination.
    • Law Enforcement Guidelines: The Task Force urges the Attorney General’s Office to develop and issue guidelines ensuring respectful, non-discriminatory treatment of transgender people by all state law enforcement agencies.

    In addition, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has announced three immediate steps:

    • LGBTQ Equality Directive: The AG’s office has issued a new directive to define specific protocols that all law enforcement officers must follow to avoid engaging in impermissible harassment or discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
    • Public Awareness Campaign: The Division on Civil Rights has launched a new, robust public awareness campaign to educate LGBTQ New Jerseyans — as well as businesses, employers, and landlords serving them — about their rights under the Law Against Discrimination.
    • Juvenile Justice Commission: The new policy on LGBTQ juveniles updates existing policy and ensures that LGBTQ juveniles are treated fairly with regards to housing, facilities and programming, search restrictions, medical and mental health care, and confidentiality.

    The Task Force report has laid out various other goals to improve the lives of transgender New Jerseyans, and we’re already hard at work to design policy to achieve those recommendations. Most immediately, we will be working to:

    • Mandate all-gender designation for single-stall restrooms in government facilities.
    • Develop an office of LGBTQ affairs within state government.
    • Create an ongoing Commission on Transgender Equality.
    • Establish statewide sexual orientation and gender identity data collection.

    And that’s just the beginning. Across the criminal justice system, education, housing, and healthcare, there are numerous other significant actions we’ll be working towards. Please take a moment to read the Task Force’s report yourself by clicking here.

    And I want to thank you for helping Garden State Equality create the Transgender Equality Task Force and supporting us throughout its mission. We couldn’t do this transformative work without members like you.

    And I’d specifically like to thank our dear friend and colleague, Aaron Potenza, who not only steered the legislation which established the Task Force, but served as Chair and representative for Garden State Equality on it. His work has and will continue to change the lives of transgender New Jerseyans.

    So as we mark International Transgender day of Remembrance — in memory of all those we’ve lost — let’s recommit ourselves to building a safer, more inclusive state that honors and protects the dignity of every New Jerseyan, no matter who they are or whom they love.

    Let’s get to work!

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality

    Continue reading
  • It's time to ban the "panic" defense in NJ

    Next week, legislation to ban the gay and trans “panic” defense will be up for a vote in the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee.

    The gay and trans “panic” defense is a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction — including murder — and it’s still legal in New Jersey to do so.

    TAKE ACTION NOW: Tell the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee to ban the gay and trans “panic” defense! Click here to sign our petition.

    Horrifically, the “panic” defense has been used to acquit dozens of murderers of their crimes, and it sends the wrong message that violence against LGBTQ people is acceptable.

    This year alone, four states have already passed bans, and it’s time for New Jersey to do so as well. Click here to sign our petition to the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee now, and we’ll hand-deliver it next week.

    We’ve been working alongside our partners and allies in the legislature to move this legislation, and if we keep pushing forward, we may even be able to get this bill passed and on Governor Murphy’s desk before the end of the year.

    With your help, we can get it done.

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality Action Fund

    Continue reading