I knocked on over 10,000 doors (while stumping in the 14th district) and not one of the people I spoke with said to me, 'when you're elected you should ammend the constitution to discriminate against the gay community.' Not one."-Republican Assemblyman Bill Baroni
Trenton was gayer than ever yesterday and Jim McGreevy was nowhere to be found!! And even though we definitely had a gay old time, there was a serious message to Equality Day at the state house. Namely, marriage and gender equality.
The day was put on by Garden State Equality and
|jay lassiter :: Equality Day at the State House (updated with pics!)|
| We first met with the chiefs of staff for the Governor, Senate President Codey and Assembly Speaker Roberts. It was pretty obvious by the dialogue with these folks with that we (gays and transsexuals) have genuine allies in Gov. Corzine, Codey, and Roberts. |
We next met with some members of the GOP caucus, who impressed me with their enlightened views on gay- and trans issues. John Bramnick (R-Union), Bill Baroni (R-Mercer) and Sean Kean (R-Monmouth) all showed up as did NJ GOP state Chairman Tom Wilson. I must confess, this meeting with the republican caucus was the most spirited of the day in my opinion. In addition to assurances we received that the GOP caucus would not write discrimination into the NJ coustitution, ("Never gonna happen" says Bramnick) they really held their own in a lively discussion on equality and diversity in the state. My lasting impression was these GOP memebers were really good guys. It was nice to engage with the other side without the fear that my "lifestyle" might be used against me on election day. Would you believe me if I suggested that these guys hold themselves to a completely different standard than Karl Rove and his brand of republicanism? (enlarge pic to see a captivated GOP caucus)
Next up was a meeting with NJ's brand spankin' new Public Advocate, Ron Chen. What's a public advocate you ask? Something akin to an ombubsmnan between NJ citizens and the government. An interloctor between "us" and "them" with regards to civil rights and other issues of advocacy. Mr. Chen's background as a law professor at Rutgers and with the ACLU inspired confidence. Not only does this guy have an intimate knowledge of NJ constitutional law, he also earned some stripes at the ACLU, as well. Blue Jersey invited Mr. Chen to write an op-ed piece here on the site, basically explaining in more detail the roll he hopes to play in the Corzine cabinet. So stay tuned for that.
After lunch it was back to the lobbying. We met with NJ State Senate majority leader Bernard Kenny (D Hudson) who said the right things to us, albeit it in a non-committal way. (Note to Sen. Kenny: simple questions require simple answers.)
Next we were treated to a mini-nervous breakdown courtesy of Sen. Bill Gormley (R- Atlantic) who is generally open to GLTBI-issues but seemed horrified at our contingent. "You've ambushed me!" and "I have nothing to say!" and further "i don't want to listen to you either."
Sen. Gormley's lack of hospitality was bitterly ironic. The gang was there to present him with a placque, basically thanking him for being a friend to the gays. EEEEKK!!
Shortly thereafter Sen. John Adler paid us a visit. His assurances that the bill protecting transexuals from discrimination would be "one of the first" pieces of legislation we take up in the next section. There was a woman in our juggernaut named Jacqui who presented the legislators with three years worth of rejected resumes which she suffered while trying to find a job after her (stunningly gorgeous) transformation. Basically, Jacqui couldn't find a job in NJ and had no legal recourse to fight the obvious discrimination she faced while seeking employment. "New Jersey failed me. Please don't make anyone else have to endure my fate." I should add that Jacqui is no longer living in NJ. So we lost a tax payer, and a life long Jersey homegirl. Our loss.
By the end of the day, we had also met with Assemblyman Joe Cryan, Chair of the Democrat State Committee who is clearly a friend and ally of the gays. In fact, of all the legislators, he seemed genuinely the warmest of the lot. Honestly, you learn a lot about a person watching them react to a transsexual. Joe Cryan seemed to exude an aura which said "I don't care where you fall on the gender continuum, you're still a knucklehead. Now come gimme a hug!!" (In this pic, I attempt to get the scoop from Cryan staffer Bob Bresenhan, but i was clearly distracted by the faaaaaabulous decor of the statehouse rotunda. click to enlarge)
In conclusion, our message could be boiled down to this: "We're still here, we're still queer. But we are also a powerful lobbying body and we vote and we matter and we're watching you."