Black people have been killed, Black people are dying at the hands of police, our country is in crisis, and we all need to take action. We cannot sit on the sidelines, we cannot acquiesce, and we cannot assign responsibility to others. We, as leaders in the LGBTQ movement, must rise up and call for structural change, for divestment of police resources and reinvestment in communities, and for long-term transformational change. Now is the time to take action, and this letter amplifies our strong calls for urgent and immediate action to be taken.
Ongoing police brutality and systemic racism has plagued this nation for generations and has been captured on video and laid bare to the public in the United States and around the world. In 2019, more than 1,000 people were killed at the hands of the police. We mourn the unacceptable and untimely deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mya Hall, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, and many more who were gone too soon.
We have seen with increased frequency the shocking video footage of police brutality. Officers have been recorded instigating violence, screaming obscenities, dragging individuals out of cars, using unnecessary force, holding individuals at gunpoint, and kneeling on peoples’ necks to the desperate plea of “I can’t breathe.” These occurrences are stark reminders of a police system that needs structural changes, deconstruction, and transformation. No one should fear for their lives when they are pulled over by the police. Parents should not have to “have a talk” about how to engage with the police to their children. We as a nation are bleeding, and it is now, once again, time to call for change at every level of government.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with more than 400 other civil rights organizations including LGBTQ organizations, outlined critical steps ranging from demilitarizing law enforcement to ending qualified immunity that must be taken at the federal level to end police brutality and create accountability. In response to the continued violence, Representative Karen Bass (D-CA), working closely with the Congressional Black Caucus and other leaders in Congress, introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 that reflects those core priorities which we support.
We also call for a divestment of public funding from police and a reinvestment in communities. Specifically, both the power and scope of police responsibilities should be significantly curtailed, by shifting certain responsibilities — such as mental health crisis response — from armed police officers to the professionals who are properly trained and better equipped to manage those responsibilities. True change must include the following principles.
Divesting of Public Funding From Police and Investing in Our Communities
Public funding should be shifted from police to reinvesting in our communities. Crime is often a symptom of scarcity and our frayed social safety net is sorely underfunded. The United States spends twice as much on policing, prisons, and courts as it does on direct welfare programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and supplemental social security. Congress, states, and local governments can reduce incidents of crime and create healthy communities by investing in direct assistance programs, affordable housing, education, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and early intervention programs (including violence interruption programs).
Shifting Most First Responder Responsibilities Away From Police
Our current crisis-response system should place healthcare workers, like social workers and psychiatrists, at the frontline of immediate health crisis events, not police officers. Inadequate healthcare and a lack of social safety nets have led to increased police interaction with individuals experiencing mental health crises. As a result, police officers are often called to assist in mental health emergencies, despite having little or no relevant training. This should change.
End Predictive Policing
We must address and stop the current use of predictive policing techniques that disproportionately affect minority communities. Predictive policing forecasts crime using algorithmic techniques, based on historical crime data, to determine where to deploy police and who is most likely to commit a crime. Not only does this dangerously reinforce discriminatory biases in the criminal justice system, resulting in over-policing of vulnerable communities, such as people of color and those from the LGBTQ community, but there is a lack of transparency from agencies that employ this method. Law enforcement agencies are often not required to share how or what data is being analyzed. Furthermore, these predictive technologies serve to escalate the level of enforcement and increase police presence in communities that are already over-surveilled. All law enforcement strategies must take into account the privacy concerns of the communities being policed, as well as the impact of over-policing on vulnerable communities. The use of predictive policing algorithms disregards both.
Police Union Contracts Should Be Made Public and Officers Held Liable
Currently, police union contracts make it nearly impossible for civilians to view information about officers, including incidents of prior misconduct. In doing so, police officers are shielded from accountability for their actions. The disciplinary history of a police officer whose personnel records are riddled with instances of misconduct and bad behavior should not be protected from public scrutiny. Making these contracts public and removing barriers that restrict access to records of police misconduct would allow for greater transparency and oversight and are necessary for public safety. Police union contracts must also hold police officers financially liable for killings and excessive use of force, including ending paid administrative leave and eligibility to be rehired by police departments.
As we consider these proposals, we should also evaluate how we reduce our over-reliance on policing to secure public safety.
There is no state, no municipal jurisdiction, and no law enforcement agency where transformational changes are not necessary and urgent. When celebrating Pride Month this June, we must remember that the protests and riots from Compton’s Cafeteria to Stonewall were sparked by Black and Latinx transgender women calling for police reform due to harassment and mistreatment of LGBTQ people. We commemorate the history of the LGBTQ Movement, namely our resistance to police harassment and brutality across the nation, when such violence was common and expected. We remember this time as transformative, where we overcame our pain and fear to push for the ability to live a more authentic and free life.
The full list of signers can be found here.
The Stonewall Uprising took place 51 years ago, and it was a violent riot against police brutality led by trans and queer women of color. One of those women was Marsha P. Johnson, a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the years since, brave members of New Jersey’s LGBTQ community have continued in her footsteps.
Today, of course, kicks off Pride Month, but as our nation struggles in this moment of crisis, it's more important than ever that we remember our history, act now in the spirit of Stonewall, and inspire those who will carry us into the future.
Make no mistake, Pride will be different this year for many reasons. We cannot gather in Asbury Park on the first weekend in June, as we have done since 1992, for New Jersey’s Annual Statewide Pride Celebration. However, we will still celebrate our pride this year. We have postponed this year’s Pride event to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Sunday, October 11.
And at noon on June 7, instead of kicking off our pride parade through the streets of Asbury Park, we have found a virtual way for our community to stand united. Jersey Pride, Inc. and Garden State Equality have partnered to bring you United in Pride: New Jersey’s Virtual Pride Celebration!
This virtual celebration invites those participating, as well as those viewing, to reflect on what Pride means to them and how the spirit of pride can carry us forward during these challenging times.
This year’s unique event will feature the same great entertainment you’ve come to expect — including La Bouche, Janice Robinson, Felipe Rose, and BETTY — along with plenty of very special guest speakers, local and regional LGBTQ performers, and a few surprise attractions.
Throughout United in Pride, we’ll also be raising funds to support organizations in New Jersey fighting for racial justice. Our community understands what it means to rise up and push back against a culture that tells us we are less than, that our lives don't matter. This Pride Month, we’ll be standing united with Black Americans to dismantle injustice.
In pride and solidarity,
Jersey Pride, Inc.
Today, Garden State Equality joined a letter, along with prominent LGBTQ and civil rights organizations, condemning racism, racial violence and police brutality while calling for action to combat these scourges. The letter is signed by 100+ leaders of the nation’s most prominent LGBTQ and civil rights organizations.
LGBTQ Organizations Unite to Combat Racial Violence
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Those words, written over 30 years ago by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, remind us that indifference can never bridge the divide of hate. And, today, they should serve as a call to action to all of us, and to the Movement for LGBTQ equality.
This spring has been a stark and stinging reminder that racism, and its strategic objective, white supremacy, is as defining a characteristic of the American experience as those ideals upon which we claim to hold our democracy — justice, equality, liberty.
- We listened to the haunting pleas of George Floyd for the most basic of human needs — simply, breath — as a Minneapolis police officer kneeled with cruel indifference on his neck.
- We felt the pain of Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend as he called 9-1-1 after plainclothes Louisville police kicked down the door of their home and shot her eight times as she slept in her bed.
- We watched the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery by white vigilantes in Brunswick, GA, aware that they evaded the consequence of their actions until the video surfaced and sparked national outrage.
- We saw the weaponizing of race by a white woman who pantomimed fear in calling the police on Christian Cooper, a Black gay man bird-watching in Central Park.
- We have heard and read about the killings of transgender people -- Black transgender women in particular — with such regularity, it is no exaggeration to describe it as a epidemic of violence. This year alone, we have lost at least 12 members of our community: Dustin Parker, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Yampi Méndez Arocho, Monika Diamond, Lexi, Johanna Metzger, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Nina Pop, Helle Jae O’Regan, and Tony McDade.
All of these incidents are stark reminders of why we must speak out when hate, violence, and systemic racism claim — too often with impunity — Black Lives.
The LGBTQ Movement’s work has earned significant victories in expanding the civil rights of LGBTQ people. But what good are civil rights without the freedom to enjoy them?
Many of our organizations have made progress in adopting intersectionality as a core value and have committed to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. But this moment requires that we go further — that we make explicit commitments to embrace anti-racism and end white supremacy, not as necessary corollaries to our mission, but as integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people.
We, the undersigned, recognize we cannot remain neutral, nor will awareness substitute for action. The LGBTQ community knows about the work of resisting police brutality and violence. We celebrate June as Pride Month, because it commemorates, in part, our resisting police harassment and brutality at Stonewall in New York City, and earlier in California, when such violence was common and expected. We remember it as a breakthrough moment when we refused to accept humiliation and fear as the price of living fully, freely, and authentically.
We understand what it means to rise up and push back against a culture that tells us we are less than, that our lives don't matter. Today, we join together again to say #BlackLivesMatter and commit ourselves to the action those words require.
Affirmations, Dave Garcia, Executive Director
AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Aisha N. Davis, Director of Policy
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director
Arkansas Transgender Equity Collaborative, Tonya Estell, Board of Directors
BAGLY, Inc. (Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth), Grace Sterling Stowell, Executive Director
Basic Rights Oregon, Nancy Haque, Executive Director
Bi Women Quarterly, Robyn Ochs, Editor
Campaign for Southern Equality, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director
Campus Pride, Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director
Cathedral Of Hope UCC, Rev. Dr. Neil G Thomas, Senior Pastor
Center on Halsted, Modesto Valle, CEO
CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, Denise Spivak, CEO
Community Education Group, A.Toni Young, Executive Director
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi
Curve Magazine, Merryn Johns, Editor-in-Chief
Equality Arizona, Michael Soto, Executive Director
Equality California, Rick Chavez Zbur, Executive Director
Equality Delaware, Mark Purpura and Lisa Goodman, Board Chairs
Equality Federation, Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director
Equality Florida, Nadine Smith, Executive Director
Equality Illinois, Brian Johnson, CEO
Equality New Mexico, Adrian N. Carver, Executive Director
Equality New York, Amanda Babine, Executive Director
Equality North Carolina, Kendra R Johnson, Executive Director
Equality Ohio, Alana Jochum, Executive Director
Equality Texas, Ricardo Martinez, CEO
Equality Virginia, Vee Lamneck, Executive Director
Fair Wisconsin, Megin McDonell, Executive Director
Fairness Campaign, Tamara Russell, Board Member
Family Equality, Denise Brogan-Kator, Chief Policy Officer
Freedom for All Americans, Kasey Suffredini, CEO & National Campaign Director
Freedom Oklahoma, Allie Shinn, Executive Director
FreeState Justice, Mark Procopio, Executive Director
Garden State Equality, Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director
Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center, Fred Swanson, Executive Director
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), Kelsey Louie, CEO
Gender Rights Maryland, Sharon Brackett, Board Chair
Gender Spectrum, Joel Baum, Senior Director
Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network (GSA Network), Geoffrey Winder & Ginna Brelsford, Co-Executive Directors
Georgia Equality, Jeff Graham, Executive Director
GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO
GLBT Alliance of Santa Cruz, Gloria Nieto, Board Member
GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Janson Wu, Executive Director
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Hector Vargas, Executive Director
GLSEN, Eliza Byard, Executive Director
GSAFE, Brian Juchems, Co-Director
Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, President
Immigration Equality, Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director
Ingersoll Gender Center, Karter Booher, Executive Director
Lambda Legal, Kevin Jennings, CEO
Lesbians of Color Symposium Collective, Inc., Shaunya Thomas, Co - Founder / President
LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Mike Thompson, CEO
LGBT Life Center, Stacie Walls, CEO
LGBTQ Center OC, Peg Corley, Executive Director
LGBTQ Victory Fund & LGBTQ Victory Institute, Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO
Louisiana Trans Advocates, Peyton Rose Michelle, Director of Operations
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Tre'Andre Valentine, Executive Director
MassEquality, Tanya V. Neslusan, Executive Director
Matthew Shepard Foundation, Jason Marsden, Executive Vice President
Movement Advancement Project, Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director
National Black Justice Coalition, David Johns, Executive Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights, Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director
National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling, Executive Director
National Equality Action Team (NEAT), Brian Silva, Founder & Executive Director
National LGBTQ Task Force, Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), Glenn D. Magpantay, Executive Director
New York City Anti-Violence Project, Beverly Tillery, Executive Director
NMAC, Paul Kawata, Executive Director
Oakland LGBTQ Community Center, Joe Hawkins, CEO
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Erin Uritus, CEO
One Colorado, Daniel Ramos, Executive Director
One Iowa, Courtney Reyes, Executive Director
One Orlando Alliance, Jennifer Foster, Executive Director
Our Family Coalition, Sam Ames, Interim Executive Director
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, Erin Uritus, CEO
OutFront Minnesota, Monica Meyer, Executive Director
OutNebraska, Abbi Swatsworth, Executive Director
Pacific Center for Human Growth, Michelle Gonzalez, Executive Director
PFLAG National, Brian K. Bond, Executive Director
PRC, Brett Andrews, CEO
Pride at Work, Jerame Davis, Executive Director
PROMO, Stephen Eisele, Executive Director
Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa County, Kiku Johnson, Executive Director
Resource Center, Cece Cox, CEO
Sacramento LGBT Community Center, David Heitstuman, CEO
San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Joe Hollendoner, CEO
San Francisco Community Health Center, Lance Toma, CEO
SF LGBT Center, Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director
SAGE, Michael Adams, CEO
San Diego LGBT Community Center, Cara Dessert, CEO
Sero Project, Sean Strub, Executive Director
Silver State Equality, André C. Wade, State Director
Tennessee Equality Project, Chris Sanders, Executive Director
The Diversity Center, Sharon E Papo, Executive Director
The Gala Pride and Diversity Center, Michelle Call, Executive Director
The Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, Glennda Testone, Executive Director
The LGBTQ Center, Long Beach, Porter Gilberg, Executive Director
The LGBTQ Center, NYC, Reg Calcagno, Senior Director of Government Affairs
The Pride Center of Maryland, Mimi Demissew, Executive Director
The Source LGBT+ Center, Brian Poth, Executive Director
The Trevor Project, Amit Paley, CEO
Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), Emmett Schelling, Executive Director
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), Andy Marra, Executive Director
TransOhio, James Knapp, Chair & Executive Director
Truth Wins Out, Wayne Besen, Executive Director
Uptown Gay & Lesbian Alliance (UGLA), Carl Matthes, President
Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Ricci Levy, President & CEO
Wyoming Equality, Sara Burlingame, Executive Director
About two years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
My life was not a pretty picture leading up to that point, but with the help of mental health professionals along with friends and family, I was able to begin a constructive path towards healing.
But I’m not alone. Almost half of Americans will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime, and the rates are even higher within the LGBTQ community.
That’s why I’m so glad Garden State Equality is hosting a forum on LGBTQ Mental Health & Resilience in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. Will you join us tomorrow on Thursday, May 28 at 1:30 pm?
During our forum tomorrow, you’ll hear from Garden State Equality’s all-star team of health professionals and licensed clinicians, along with our special guest Dr. David Ford of Monmouth University.
While Garden State Equality is putting special focus on mental health awareness this month, it’s even more important that we all continue that work year round to fight stigma, promote pathways to care, and reduce the mental health disparities in our community.
Thanks for your support.
Director of Communications & Membership
Garden State Equality
Last week I wrote to you about how important it is for New Jersey to begin collecting demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) among COVID-19 cases.
Tonight, we’re hosting a Town Hall on LGBTQ Data Collection and COVID-19 with an expert panel. We’re thrilled to be joined for tonight’s Town Hall with special guests Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, Perry N. Halkitis (Dean of Rutgers School of Public Health), Jackie J. Baras (Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, and Scout (National LGBT Cancer Network).
Will you join us at 6:00 pm tonight?
Believe me, I know that “data collection” doesn’t sound like the most exciting issue, but it’s absolutely critical to ensuring state resources and funding can be appropriately distributed. If LGBTQ aren’t counted in the data… we’re going to be left out of the response.
Bianca Mayes, MPH, CHES
Health & Wellness Coordinator
Garden State Equality
There’s increasing momentum nationwide to collect COVID-19 demographic data for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), but New Jersey is already falling behind.
Just this week, Pennsylvania Governor Wolfe announced his state will begin collecting SOGI data, and four other states are advancing similar policies.
Like all marginalized communities, LGBTQ are disproportionately impacted by health disparities and discrimination in healthcare, making our community more vulnerable to COVID-19, but to enable effective, targeted distribution of state resources and funding, we need data!
Our state is already tracking the health disparities among people of color and the barriers to care they face in this pandemic, and sadly, LGBTQ are victims of the same forces of discrimination. For LGBTQ people of color, the risk of COVID-19 is only magnified.
With our state at the epicenter of the pandemic, we have no time to waste.
It's time for sexual orientation and gender identity data collection in New Jersey.
Bianca Mayes, MPH, CHES
Health & Wellness Coordinator
Garden State Equality
As COVID-19 sweeps across New Jersey and disproportionately harms older adults, we must act immediately to protect LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV in longterm care facilities.
We don’t have a moment to waste. It's time for New Jersey to pass A680 / S1926 — the Bill of Rights for LGBTQ Older Adults.
This bill would provide specific, enumerated protections for LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV in longterm care facilities — ensuring they are treated with dignity, respect, and without discrimination — so that they can get the critical healthcare they need right now.
We know that older adults are disproportionately at risk for COVID-19, and LGBTQ seniors face significant health disparities and barriers to healthcare which only magnifies those risks.
Stand with us today to protect our community’s elders. Sign our petition now and urge lawmakers to protect LGBTQ older adults in longterm care facilities.
Even with the current crisis our nation faces, I assure you that Garden State Equality will never slow down or stop fighting for New Jersey’s LGBTQ community. Together, we will overcome this moment, and we’ll be stronger for it.
Thanks for all you do. We hope you and your family are safe and healthy.
Garden State Equality Action Fund
PS – Our grassroots group “Elders for Equality” is organizing online with weekly meetings to stay connected and advance equality for older adults. Join our Facebook Group by clicking here and become a part of the conversation.
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!
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.
We’ll see you at The Equality Soiree.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Director of Communications & Membership
Garden State Equality