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.
Garden State Equality
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
LD 1 — Bob Andrzejczak (D)*
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)*
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
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
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!
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?
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!
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.
Director of Communications & Membership
Garden State Equality
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.
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.
Garden State Equality welcomes Alisha DeLorenzo as Interim Deputy Director
Asbury Park, NJ — Garden State Equality is announcing today that Aaron Potenza will be stepping down from his role as Director of Policy on Friday, June 21, 2019. Later this summer, Potenza will begin a new professional opportunity serving as the Special Initiatives Program Manager for The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA).
Potenza, who currently chairs New Jersey’s Transgender Equality Task Force (www.TransEqualityNJ.com), will remain a member of the Garden State Equality family and continue to serve in his capacity as chair and Garden State Equality’s representative until the Task Force concludes its mission in September 2019.
“Serving New Jersey’s LGBTQ community at Garden State Equality has been an honor, and a time of tremendous professional growth,” said Aaron Potenza, Director of Policy for Garden State Equality. “As a member of NJCASA’s robust policy team, I’ll be focused on issue-based, data-driven research that directly impacts the LGBTQ community alongside strategic planning around political and policy issues. Nothing could have better prepared me for this next professional challenge than my time working with Garden State Equality.”
“It is a bittersweet moment for all of us at Garden State Equality to part with Aaron as he pursues the next chapter in his professional career, but he will always be a member of our family,” said Christian Fuscarino, executive director for Garden State Equality. “From the Babs Siperstein Law to transgender student guidance to transition-related care, Aaron has been a pioneer for LGBTQ equality in New Jersey, and his mark will be felt for years to come. We are fortunate that we will continue partnering together through the Transgender Equality Task Force and NJCASA’s intersectional work.”
Potenza first joined Garden State Equality in May 2015 as its Anti-Bullying Organizer, overseeing advocacy and policy work serving New Jersey’s public schools. Shortly after, he was promoted to Director of Programs, where he built out the three pillars of Garden State Equality’s community programs for building safe and LGBTQ-inclusive schools (Teach & Affirm), expanding access to LGBTQ-affirming healthcare (Map & Expand), and protecting LGBTQ older adults (Pledge & Protect). Alongside Fuscarino, Potenza led many of Garden State Equality’s transformative legislative and policy victories including:
- Ensuring transition-related care is covered under health plans sold in New Jersey;
- Passing The Babs Siperstein Law, which removed the outdated “proof of surgery” requirement for gender marker amendments to birth certificates and created a third gender option for non-binary New Jerseyans;
- Ensuring dignity in death by adding gender identity to death certificates;
- Developing and implementing New Jersey’s statewide transgender student guidance;
- Passing New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law—the second law of its kind in the nation and the first-in-the-nation to be interdisciplinary;
- And establishing the first statewide interagency Transgender Equality Task Force in the nation, which he chairs, to assess the legal and societal barriers to transgender equality and provide recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on how to ensure equality and improve the lives of transgender people.
As Special Initiatives Program Manager, Potenza will have the opportunity to serve as part of NJCASA’s robust policy team to review draft legislation, write responses, and liaison with policy makers. He will additionally conduct assessments, data analysis, and reports about sexual violence prevention and direct service strategies as well as leading community engagement strategies, including outreach and support to the LGBTQ community.
“The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault is proud to be adding Aaron Potenza to our team. We have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with Aaron and his colleagues at Garden State Equality as our organizations have worked at the intersections of oppression. We look forward to continuing our allied organizational work and feel confident that Aaron will be a strong addition to our already impactful team of dedicated professionals working to reduce the impact and prevalence of sexual violence in New Jersey and beyond,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of NJCASA.
NJCASA provides a statewide voice for survivors of sexual violence and the 21 county-based sexual violence programs (plus the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance – New Brunswick) that serve them. NJCASA advocates for survivor-centered policies and legislation, trains and educates for sexual violence service professionals and allied professionals, and develops prevention strategies to address and reduce the root causes of sexual violence.
Beginning Monday, July 1, Garden State Equality will be bringing on Alisha DeLorenzo as Interim Deputy Director to oversee Garden State Equality’s programs, development, and policy. DeLorenzo has deep roots in the public education system for over 15 years as a teacher, Student Assistance Counselor, and the first Social Emotional Learning Coordinator in the state. In addition, as a Licensed Professional Counselor, trained in an Integrative Mental Health model, Alisha specializes in working with LGBTQ clients and families as well as specializing in trauma, grief, anxiety and depression. She has been recognized state-wide for her leadership and the transformative work she brings to communities. Her work in the realm of social justice and equity dates back to 2004 with the National Non-Profit, American Conference on Diversity.
On Friday, June 21 at 5:00 pm, Garden State Equality will be hosting a Reception in Appreciation of Aaron Potenza at Watermark in Asbury Park to honor his contributions over the last several years. The event will be open to members of Garden State Equality along with colleagues and friends of Potenza.
Last month, you may have heard that a student’s LGBTQ pride mural was painted over at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) after the school’s landlord, a Catholic church, urged the school to remove it.
Garden State Equality immediately took action to ensure LGBTQ student voices were affirmed and that our LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law would be protected when it goes into effect in the fall of 2020, and on Friday last week, I met with administrators, educators, and students at the school and facilitated a restorative practice dialogue. As a group, we collaboratively developed several constructive solutions to ensure those goals.
The school will be taking several actions, but most significantly, I’m proud to tell you that BASCS will be one of roughly a dozen schools where Garden State Equality will be test-piloting LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, which we are actively developing, a year before the law goes into effect.
I’d also like to say thank you to Breanna and Mila, the students who painted the mural, for speaking out against this injustice and creating real, lasting change for their school.
One of Garden State Equality’s top priorities is ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe, affirmed, and supported, and to the school’s credit, the administration unequivocally embraced the positive and constructive solutions proposed by students and educators during our dialogue. That wouldn’t have happened without the voices of Breanna and Mila in the room.
New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum law is going to be a life-changing experience for our youth by ensuring the political, social, and economic contributions of our community are represented in classrooms, and we are committed to building robust and comprehensive curriculum that lifts up and inspires the next generation.
With the current law, local school boards are required to develop and implement the curriculum, which is a costly and burdensome task, but once we finish developing and test-piloting the curriculum, we will be offering it to every school district in New Jersey for free. We’ll also be providing “curriculum coaches” to train educators and ensure it is successfully implemented.
Thank you for helping us continue to build safe schools all across New Jersey. Our youth are depending on us, and we can only do this work because of your support.
Safe Schools & Community Education Manager
Garden State Equality
PS — Garden State Equality is currently hiring a Safe Schools Coordinator and four curriculum writers. Please visit our website to learn more and apply: www.GardenStateEquality.org/employment
Garden State Equality and Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to Test-Pilot LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum in Fall 2019
Last month, a student-created mural, created as part of a BASCS art project and intended to express LGBTQ pride, caught Garden State Equality’s eye and garnered national attention when the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack, asked that the mural to be removed. As a result, representatives of Garden State Equality met with BASCS students, educators, and administrators last week for a “restorative practice dialogue.” The dialogue aired the issues and concluded with a commitment by BASCS to take several constructive actions, including its implementation of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum next school year, a year before New Jersey’s law requiring such curriculum goes into effect.
“New Jersey public charter schools often have no other facilities option besides locating their schools in former parochial school buildings, and we are committed to working together with public charter schools to help them navigate these matters in a way that supports all of their students. Garden State Equality’s top priority is ensuring that LGBTQ students feel safe, affirmed, and supported, and to the school’s credit, the administration unequivocally embraced the positive and constructive solutions proposed by students and educators during our dialogue,” said Ashley Chiappano, Safe Schools & Community Education Manager for Garden State Equality. “We are proud to partner with Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to roll out our LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum test-pilot program later this year to ensure the political, social, and economic contributions of LGBTQ people are represented in classrooms.”
For its part, BASCS “is happy to participate in the test-pilot program and to be a leader in developing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum” said the school’s Lead Person, Nihat Guvercin. He added, “BASCS is committed to affirming LGBTQ student voices and successfully implementing LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. For years, BASCS has successfully operated its school in a church building, complying with the requirements of its lease while also respecting the rights of its students. BASCS and the entire iLearn Schools network have proactively built school environments that uplift and give voice to diversity. The curriculum test-pilot will be an opportunity for us to become a leader in this work, to create a model for other public schools. We’re proud to participate with Garden State Equality to do that.”
“I am so happy real initiatives will be taking place at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to affirm LGBTQ students, and I will be doing everything in my power to work with my peers, educators, and the administration to ensure our goals are implemented with a fair outcome,” said Breanna, a sixteen year old junior at BASCS who painted the mural. She will be a senior at BASCS when school resumes in the fall. “There is still so much work to do on behalf of LGBTQ youth and students, and by building a safe and inclusive environment at our school, I am optimistic that no other student will ever have to go through a similar experience again.”
Breanna has been offered—and accepted—a summer internship with Garden State Equality for its Teach & Affirm program, which works to build safe schools for LGBTQ students across New Jersey.
In addition to the school’s participation in the test-pilot curriculum program, BASCS and Garden State Equality agreed to other deliverables:
- They will reconvene in the fall of 2019 and extend an invitation to the Archdiocese of Newark and the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church of Hackensack to participate. Conversations will continue through the summer. The school has agreed to foster communication between administration, faculty, and students on issues related to speech and inclusivity.
- In August, when teachers return to school, Garden State Equality will provide professional development training to BASCS faculty on LGBTQ issues and cultural competency and the newly adopted New Jersey state law requiring the LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum, which will go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year for all New Jersey public schools, including public charter schools, as well as the Law Against Discrimination, the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and the Department of Education’s transgender student guidance.
The New Jersey Department of Education will issue broad guidelines before the law’s implementation, but ultimately, local school boards are charged with developing and implementing the curriculum—a costly and burdensome task. Following the test-pilot program Garden State Equality’s curriculum will be offered to local school boards and districts at no cost. “Curriculum coaches” will be available to schools as well.
Governor Phil Murphy acknowledged Garden State Equality’s proactive work to create LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum during his speech at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball on Friday, May 31, and Garden State Equality is in discussions with New Jersey’s Department of Education to partner on developing state guidelines. “I applaud Garden State Equality for not only leading this effort, but for your continued work in helping to craft this curriculum,” said Governor Phil Murphy at Garden State Equality’s Equality Ball.
Garden State Equality is partnering with Make It Better for Youth (www.makeitbetter4youth.org) to develop robust LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum that New Jersey public schools can implement. Garden State Equality will receive $185,000 in grant funding from the Braitmayer Foundation and PSEG Foundation over the next two years to develop LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum and hire curriculum writers, for which job postings were made available on Monday, June 3 (www.gardenstateequality.org/employment). Garden State Equality will be test-piloting this curriculum in roughly a dozen New Jersey public schools for the 2019-2020 school year. The schools will represent geographic, economic, and racial diversity across New Jersey. Garden State Equality is finalizing a partnership with a New Jersey public university to conduct IRB-approved student and faculty surveys that will take place at the beginning and conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year to measure the efficacy of the curriculum as it relates to improving schools’ LGBTQ-affirming culture and climate. Additionally, Garden State Equality will be providing “curriculum coaches” at no cost to each individual test-pilot school to train and educate schools’ educators on how to effectively and successfully implement the curriculum.
As more states look to New Jersey for ideas on how to innovative on LGBTQ equality through policy and programs, Garden State Equality intends to provide its curriculum to other states that implement similar laws.
Garden State Equality Condemns Erasure of Student’s LGBTQ Pride Mural in Hackensack Public School Over Church Objections
Church has extended history of censoring curriculum and student speech on LGBTQ Issues within the school
This week, an LGBTQ pride mural created by a student at Bergen Arts & Science Charter School (BASCS) was painted over following complaints by the school’s landlord, Holy Trinity Church, who called the rainbow heart “offensive”. BASCS is a public school that is privately run as a charter school.
Garden State Equality was informed by the student, a sixteen year old high school junior at BASCS, that the school has a long history of restricting education and censoring faculty and students’ speech within the school.
Following complaints by the landlord in 2018, the school abolished a long-running daily educational program, which taught students about a unique historical figure each day, after the school included LGBTQ figures during Pride Month. Additionally, the school’s psychologist was forced to remove a poster supportive of LGBTQ students. The poster was signed by faculty and students and merely declared the office a “safe space” for LGBTQ students to enter for support.
New Jersey’s LGBTQ-Inclusive Curriculum Law, passed in January 2019, will take effect in the 2020-2021 school year, and as a public school, BASCS would be required to implement the law.
“It is offensive, unconscionable, and flatly unconstitutional for this church acting as a for-profit landlord to restrict a public school’s curriculum or censor student speech within those walls. This type of hate-fueled bigotry is precisely why New Jersey needs LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum to promote acceptance and understanding,” said Garden State Equality executive director Christian Fuscarino. “Garden State Equality will never back down from fighting for LGBTQ youth, and we call on the Bergen Arts & Science Charter School to restore the artwork and enhance its curriculum to teach its students that hate and censorship are not welcome in New Jersey’s public schools.”
“The school’s actions in destroying a student’s artwork is rank censorship and out of step with New Jersey values and our laws. Decades ago, the United State Supreme Court held that students ‘do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’” said Garden State Equality board member and former state bar president Thomas Prol, Esq. “It is sadly ironic that an educational institution is now delivering a lesson in censorship to these students during their tender years.”
I am proud to share with you that the House of Representatives just voted 236-173 to pass The Equality Act!
Today’s passage means we are now one step closer to securing historic non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans nationwide and ensuring equality under the law truly means equality for all.
Now, The Equality Act moves on to the U.S. Senate, where we face a tough, uphill battle.
We worked hard to secure the support of every Representative in our state, and you should be proud that New Jersey’s Democratic Congressional Caucus voted unanimously to support The Equality Act in addition to sponsoring the bill. We’re especially grateful to Congressman Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02) for joining the rest of the caucus in support of equality. The only lawmaker from New Jersey who voted against our community was Republican Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04).
As the Equality Act moves to the U.S. Senate, we will be working diligently with our national partners as well as our allies Senator Cory Booker and Senator Bob Menendez to get this critical legislation passed.
Thanks for helping us make this day possible. We’re moving New Jersey and the nation forward.
Garden State Equality