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- Reform New Jersey’s archaic and outdated HIV criminalization laws.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
New Jersey becomes 9th state to outlaw discriminatory legal strategy
For Immediate Release January 21, 2020
Media contact: Jon Oliveira, Director of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
Alisha De Lorenzo
Interim Deputy Director
Garden State Equality
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.
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.
Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
Garden State Equality
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.
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.
Garden State Equality Action Fund
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.
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!
Garden State Equality
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.
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.
Garden State Equality Action Fund
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!
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
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.