LATEST UPDATES

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • Our First Annual LGBTQ Health Disparities Symposium

    Last week we held our first-ever LGBTQ Health Disparities Symposium at Monmouth University to explore current efforts, challenges, and future reforms to address health disparities within our community.

    We welcomed over 200 healthcare professionals for the daylong event, and the Symposium featured several expert speakers discussing health disparities including substance use and abuse, LGBTQ aging issues, transgender health, HIV/AIDS, and more. In his keynote address, Dean Perry Halkitis of Rutgers University School of Public Health issued a call-to-action for healthcare reform in support of LGBTQ New Jerseyans and a radical transformation in how we address the spread of HIV/AIDS and STIs.

    The Symposium’s foundation was largely rooted in the work we’re doing with the Asbury Park Community Patient Empowerment Project to support the health needs of low-income LGBTQ people in the Asbury Park area.

    We are incredibly appreciative of our partners on the Community Patient Empowerment Project: VNACJ LGBTQ Health Center (a division of the Prevention Resource Network), The Community Health Center (a division of the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group), The Center in Asbury Park, and the Jersey Shore Medical Center’s HIV & AIDS Ambulatory Care Clinic (A-Team).

    Garden State Equality would also like to thank all our sponsors and partners for helping to make this event possible: Provident Bank Foundation, Monmouth University, Stockton University, Rutgers University, and Gilead Sciences. We truly appreciate your efforts and contributions to helping improve the quality of care for LGBTQ New Jerseyans.

    And to you, our members, thank you for helping us do this critical work. Expanding access to affirming healthcare for LGBTQ New Jerseyans is a cornerstone of Garden State Equality’s program work.

    Bianca Mayes, MPH, CHES
    Health & Wellness Coordinator
    Garden State Equality

    PS – This year’s LGBTQ Health Symposium was such a success that we are already planning next year’s. Stay tuned for more information!

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  • Election Day is TOMORROW – Tuesday, 11/5!

    Tomorrow is Election Day in New Jersey!

    On Tuesday, November 5, the entire State Assembly will be up for election — along with numerous county and municipal offices. With our community under attack and an ambitious legislative agenda for 2020, this year’s election will be extremely consequential for LGBTQ New Jerseyans.

    New Jersey’s LGBTQ community is depending on each and every one of us to get out and VOTE tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5!

    Before you vote, click here to view Garden State Equality Action Fund’s endorsements for the 2019 election – then use these resources below to make sure you’re prepared to vote.

    Next year, in collaboration with partners, we plan to ban the gay and trans “panic defense,” reform New Jersey’s archaic HIV criminalization laws, secure statewide funding for homeless LGBTQ youth, and pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults.

    We won’t be able to pass these bills unless we get out and VOTE to elect a pro-equality majority in Trenton.

    Thank you for voting and for supporting New Jersey’s LGBTQ community.

    – Garden State Equality Action Fund

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  • Garden State Equality Welcomes Nealon Isaacs as Development Manager

    Garden State Equality is proud to announce the hiring of Nealon Isaacs as its new Development Manager, where he will oversee the organization’s fundraising. Nealon, a veteran of LGBTQ champion Senator Raymond Lesniak’s legislative office, comes to Garden State Equality from Millennium Strategies.

    “We are excited to have Nealon join our growing team here at Garden State Equality,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “Over the last three years, we’ve built a financially solvent profile that’s allowed us to dramatically expand our community programs and triple our staff, and I’m confident with Nealon’s track record of success, he’ll continue to take Garden State Equality to new heights.”

    “It’s been a point of pride throughout my career to advocate on behalf of the ‘little guy’ and give voice to the voiceless, and those values are core to the transformative work Garden State Equality is doing on behalf of New Jersey’s LGBTQ community. I’m proud to be joining this team.” said Nealon Isaacs, Development Manager of Garden State Equality.

    “As my legislative director, Nealon was invaluable in helping me steer critical bills that protect marginalized communities in our state, including youth, seniors, LGBTQ people, and individuals with mental illness,” said Senator Raymond Lesniak. “I have no doubt he’ll bring the same thoughtfulness, strategic planning, and vigor to his work at Garden State Equality.”

    As Grants Manager for Millennium Strategies, Nealon secured critical funding for municipal and county clients that affected urban and working class communities. Most impressively, Nealon earned $4.6 million in grant funding for the city of East Orange to perform lead remediation and abatement in low income census tracts.

    Nealon’s hire follows a year of tremendous financial growth at Garden State Equality; the organization recently concluded its 10th Annual Equality Walk Weekend, where it raised over $100,000 from sponsors and small donors. Nealon joins a slew of new, talented hires at Garden State Equality, including Alisha De Lorenzo as Interim Deputy Director and Cole Callahan as Safe Schools Coordinator.

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  • Thank you for making this year's Equality Walk a success!

    Together we reached our fundraising goal for this year’s Equality Walk Weekend! Because of supporters like you, we raised over $100,000 to support LGBTQ equality in New Jersey.

    Every dollar raised will go towards our work to pass transformative laws that protect New Jersey’s LGBTQ community in addition to supporting our community programs for schools, healthcare, and older adults.

    This year we were in four cities: Trenton, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Montclair. And over one thousand New Jerseyans came out from all over the state. We're so grateful to all of you who walked, donated, volunteered, and lent your support. It’s because of devoted members like you that Garden State Equality is still thriving fifteen years after our founding.


    Asbury Park Equality Walk

    Montclair Equality Walk

    Atlantic City Equality Walk

    Trenton Equality Walk

    Behind the scenes, our Walk Director Michael Spadoro worked tirelessly to pull everything together, and our Walk Organizer Kris Berrios helped build up the grassroots support. Thank you both for making this year’s Equality Walk Weekend a success.

    I’d also like to acknowledge this year’s top individual fundraisers: Patrick McCluskey, Thomas Prol, John Juska, Steve McIntyre, and Elvin Montero.

    Additionally, thank you to this year’s top teams: Team Blue LGBTQ Law Enforcement Liaisons, NJ LGBT Democrats, Rutherford Pride Alliance, Johnny’s Angels, and Team Steve & Keith.

    We also owe a great deal of thanks to pro-equality companies who sponsored this year’s Equality Walk Weekend, including Silver Sponsor ($10,000+) Commvault and Bronze Sponsors ($5,000+) 1906, Asbury Park Brewery, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Casino Redevelopment Authority, Enterprise, Lyft, New Jersey Natural Gas, Nissan, RentAsburyPark.com, Sackman Realty, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and VNACJ’s LGBTQ Center for Health & Wellness.

    From everyone at Garden State Equality, thank you again for making this year’s Equality Walk Weekend our biggest and best yet.

    Thank you.

    Christian Fuscarino
    Executive Director
    Garden State Equality

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  • Vote for Equality: Our 2019 Election Endorsements

    This page was last updated October 15, 2019.

    On Tuesday, November 5, the entire State Assembly will be up for election, along with numerous county and municipal offices. With our community under attack and an ambitious legislative agenda for 2020, this year’s election will be extremely consequential for LGBTQ New Jerseyans.

    Today, we’re sharing with you our endorsements for the 2019 election. We’ve additionally provided a list of openly LGBTQ candidates running for office in New Jersey.

    Each of the endorsed candidates has a demonstrated record of working with and supporting issues of importance to the LGBTQ community, and they have offered commitments to support our 2020 legislative agenda.

    Next year, in collaboration with partners, we plan to ban the gay and trans “panic defense,” reform New Jersey’s archaic HIV criminalization laws, secure statewide funding for homeless LGBTQ youth, and pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults. Ensuring that we pass each of these bills means we need a pro-equality majority in Trenton.

    Standing up for equality is always right, and because of their proven record and commitment to New Jersey’s LGBTQ community, all of these candidates have decisively earned Garden State Equality Action Fund’s endorsement.

    From now through election day, we will be educating voters about what’s at stake in this election—and who’s on their side. We are proud to support this slate of candidates, and we look forward to building a more equal New Jersey with them in office.

    Garden State Equality Action Fund 501(c)4
    2019 Endorsements

    * Incumbent

    State Senate:

    LD 1 — Bob Andrzejczak (D)*

    General Assembly:

    LD 1 — Bruce Land (D)*
    LD 2 — John Armato (D)* Vincent Mazzeo (D)*
    LD 3 — John Burzichelli (D)* Adam Taliaferro (D)*
    LD 4 — Gabriela Mosquera (D)* Paul Moriarty (D)*
    LD 5 — Bill Spearman (D)* Bill Moen (D)
    LD 6 — Lou Greenwald (D)* Pamela Lampitt (D)*
    LD 7 — Herb Conaway (D)* Carol Murphy (D)*
    LD 8 — Gina LaPlaca (D) Mark Natale (D)
    LD 9 — Wayne Lewis (D)
    LD 10 — Eileen Della Volle (D) Erin Wheeler (D)
    LD 11 — Joann Downey (D)* Eric Houghtaling (D)*
    LD 12 — Malini Guha (D)
    LD 13 — Serena DiMaso (R)* Allison Friedman (D)

    While we are concerned that she abstained from voting on the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum legislation, Assemblywoman DiMaso has been supportive of some of the most important LGBTQ related bills that have passed through the Assembly during her time.

    LD 14 — Dan Benson (D)* Wayne DeAngelo (D)*
    LD 15 — Jennifer Williams (R) Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D)* Anthony Verrelli (D)*
    LD 16 — Andrew Zwicker (D)* Roy Freiman (D)*
    LD 17 — Joe Danielsen (D)*
    LD 18 — Nancy Pinkin (D)* Bob Karabinchak (D)*
    LD 19 — Craig Coughlin (D)* Yvonne Lopez (D)*
    LD 20 — Jamel Holley (D)* Annette Quijano (D)*
    LD 21 — Stacey Gunderman (D) Lisa Madelblatt (D)
    LD 22 — Jim Kennedy (D)* Linda Carter (D)*
    LD 23 — No Endorsement
    LD 24 — Deana Lykins (D)
    LD 25 — Lisa Bhimani (D) Darcy Draeger (D)
    LD 26 — Christine Clarke (D) Laura Fortgang (D)
    LD 27 — John McKeon (D)* Mila Jasey (D)*
    LD 28 — Ralph Caputo (D)* Cleopatra Tucker (D)*
    LD 29 — Eliana Pintor Marin (D)* Shanique Speight (D)*
    LD 30 — No Endorsement
    LD 31 — Nick Chiaravalloti (D)* Angela McKnight (D)*
    LD 32 — Angelica Jiminez (D)* Pedro Mejia (D)*
    LD 33 — Raj Mukherji (D)* Annette Chaparro (D)*
    LD 34 — Tom Giblin (D)* Britnee Timberlake (D)*
    LD 35 — Benjie Wimberly (D)* Shavonda Sumter (D)*
    LD 36 — Clinton Calabrese (D)*
    LD 37 — Gordon Johnson (D)* Valerie Huttle (D)*
    LD 38 — Lisa Swain (D)* Chris Tully (D)*
    LD 39 — Holly Schepisi (R)*, Gerald Falotico (D), John Birkner Jr. (D)

    We wished she had not abstained on the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum legislation, however, Assemblywoman Schepisi has been an advocate on LGBTQ issues, including sponsoring the “Babs Siperstein Law” and we support her reelection to the Assembly.

    LD 40 — Kevin Rooney (R)*

    Local Endorsements:

    Bette Jane Kowalski (D)* for Union County Freeholder
    Cara Parmigiani (D) for Morris County Freeholder
    Carol Rizzo (D)* for Neptune Mayor
    Christopher Hillmann (D)* for Hasbrouck Heights Mayor
    David T. Wright (D) for Ocean County Freeholder
    Jean A. Czarkowski (D) for Ocean County Freeholder
    Jonathan Petro (D) for Toms River Mayor
    Meghan Huryk (D) for Neptune City Council
    Michael DeFusco (D)* for Hoboken Council
    Melonie Marano (D) for Somerset County Freeholder
    Michael Penna (D) for Monmouth County Freeholder
    Michael Thompson for Morris County Surrogate
    Michael Warren (D) for Rochelle Park Council
    Moira Nelson (D) for Monmouth County Freeholder
    Nick Polito (D) for Atlantic County Freeholder
    Pamela Renee (D)* for Neptune City Mayor
    Rebecca Williams (D)* for Union County Freeholder
    Sergio Granados (D)* for Union County Freeholder
    Tom Arnone (R)* for Monmouth County Freeholder

    LGBTQ Candidates:

    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 our members to support all LGBTQ candidates who support our community:

    Alyssa Dawson for Bergen County Freeholder
    Brett Cannon for Matawan Council
    Cara Parmigiani for Morris County Freeholder:
    Carol Rizzo for Neptune Mayor
    Caryl “Chris” Shoffner for South Bound Brook Mayor
    Christine Dansereau for Mayor of Roselle
    Christopher Hillmann for Hasbrouck Heights Mayor
    Eileen Della Volle for Assembly in LD10
    Gerald Lyons for Jersey City School Board
    Jennifer Williams for Assembly LD15
    Jonathan Petro for Toms River Mayor
    Meghan Huryk for Neptune City Council
    Michael Defusco for Hoboken Council
    Michael Penna for Monmouth County Freeholder
    Michael Warren for Rochelle Park Council
    Migdalia Pagan Milano for Hoboken Council
    Moira Nelson for Monmouth County Freeholder
    Pamela Renee for Neptune City Mayor
    Patrick Curreri for Vernon Council
    Rebecca Williams for Union County Freeholder
    Rich Rockwell for Bloomfield Council
    T.C. McCourt for Dover Alderman
    Wartyna “Nina” Davis for Bloomfield Council

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  • Help Us Map & Expand LGBTQ-Affirming Healthcare in New Jersey

    Garden State Equality is partnering with the Rutgers School of Public Health to map and expand LGBTQ-affirming healthcare providers across New Jersey, and we are building a website portal where you can find easily find them.

    Before we can build that website, we are conducting a statewide research survey to learn where those affirming providers are and assure they are professionally and culturally competent.

    If you’re a healthcare provider: click here to add your name as an LGBTQ-affirming provider—and we’ll send you more information about our research survey.

    If you’re an LGBTQ patient or parent: forward this email to your provider and urge them to sign—and then click here to add your provider’s contact information so we can reach out to them as well.

    LGBTQ people have specific health needs and challenges—ranging from family planning, transition-related care, mental health, sexual health, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and more—but many in our community find themselves traveling out of state... or simply not getting the care they need at all.

    To change that, we already provide professional development trainings around New Jersey. And our patient web portal is a critical next step to ensuring that you can easily find those affirming providers—whether you’re in Cape May, Clifton, or Camden.

    If you have follow-up questions about this partnership or project, please email MapAndExpand@sph.rutgers.edu.

    Bianca Mayes, MPH, CHES
    Health & Wellness Coordinator
    Garden State Equality

    PS: If you’d like to learn more about our work in this space, be sure to save the date for our LGBTQ Health Disparities Symposium on November 8. Attendance will be free and open to the public!

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  • Announcing the 10th Annual Equality Walk!

    Ten years ago, I walked in Garden State Equality’s first-ever Equality Walk, and even with all the progress we’ve made since then, I can tell you this year is just as important.

    Right now, we’re working to ban the gay and trans panic defense, reform HIV criminalization laws, secure statewide funding for homeless LGBTQ youth, and pass a bill of rights for LGBTQ older adults.

    That’s why I’m still walking—because the fight is still not over—but we can’t continue that work without your help. Will you join me in walking in this year’s Equality Walk?

    Click here to register to walk or become a team captain for Garden State Equality’s 10th Annual Equality Walk Weekend, taking place between October 11th and 13th!

    Just like last year, this year’s Equality Walk will be a weekend-long event across the state with locations in Atlantic City, Asbury Park, and Montclair... and we’re also adding a fourth location in Trenton!

    Help us continue growing equality in New Jersey: click here to register now for the 10th Annual Equality Walk!

    I’m looking forward to seeing you again in October. Thanks for all you do to make New Jersey a better place for our community year after year.

    Jon Oliveira
    Director of Communications & Membership
    Garden State Equality

    PS - Even if you can’t join us in person, you can still sign up to be a virtual walker or make a one-time contribution and help us reach our fundraising goal for this year’s Equality Walk.

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  • We’re bringing LGBTQ curriculum to New Jersey schools

    Beginning in the fall of 2020, all New Jersey public schools will be required to teach the social, political, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people across all relevant subject areas.

    That means our youth will learn about towering figures like two of New Jersey’s own: Babs Siperstein, a transgender equality pioneer, and Marsha P. Johnson, who ignited the Stonewall Riots. Students will also learn about Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, and Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King’s closest adviser who organized the March on Washington. And there’s countless more.

    We know how expensive and resource-intensive it can be to develop curriculum for any subject, so Garden State Equality and Make It Better for Youth are partnering to develop a robust curriculum that we will be offering to schools across the state—at no cost.

    Before the law goes into effect next fall, Garden State Equality is also launching a pilot program for a select number of schools to bring LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum into classrooms starting in January 2020, and we are actively seeking candidate schools to apply for the pilot program.

    If you’re a school administrator: Your school can be a part of educational history by being one of the first to bring LGBTQ representation into the classroom. Click here to apply to become a pilot school for inclusive curriculum.

    If you’re a supporter: Share our new infographic on Facebook to help spread the word about LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in New Jersey schools—and then contact your school administration to apply to become a pilot school!

    Since we passed the nation’s strongest Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights in 2011, building safe schools for LGBTQ youth has been one of the pillars of Garden State Equality’s mission, but we know students still experience victimization and harassment. Fostering an affirming culture that works beyond the letter of the law is critical to developing safe schools, and LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum is the next step to ensuring that.

    Developing this curriculum is one of the biggest feats we’ve ever taken on at Garden State Equality, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without help from supporters like you.

    Thank you,

    Ashley Chiappano, MS
    Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
    Garden State Equality

    PS: If you’re an educator or curriculum writer and would like to volunteer on our curriculum development team, apply here.

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