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New Jersey school board bans Pride flag, students walk-out in protest

The students, some wrapped blanket-style in full-size Pride and Trans flags, made their way to the board of education building downtown

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Screenshot/NJ.COM

PASSAIC, Nj. – Students in this suburban Newark, New Jersey city in the metropolitan Tri-State area of New York City walked out of classes from three schools Monday, protesting a new school board policy that bans the LGBTQ pride flag and most other flags from being flown outside schools.

Students from, Passaic PREP, Passaic Academy for Science and Engineering and Passaic High School, numbering less than a hundred according to , left classes and waving mini-Pride flags. “Walk out! Walk out!” the demonstrators chanted. Many of their classmates stood at windows, offering a thumbs up, but only a handful joined the march, the NJ.COM/The Star Ledger reported.

The students, some wrapped blanket-style in full-size Pride and Trans flags, made their way to City Hall and the board of education building downtown. “Raise our flag! Raise our flag!” the students chanted, as Passaic police and school security provided an escort to ensure safety, the NJ.COM/The Star Ledger reported.

“We’re not going to stop until we get what we want,” said Amari Gawthney, who grabbed a bullhorn and led the demonstrators on the march to City Hall. “We put up the flag last year with no problem. Then this new policy came from out of the blue, and they pushed it under the rug, actually.”

The Passaic Board of Education trustees had initiated the new after board members discovered there was no policy on flag raising at the schools. According to NJ.COM/The Star Ledger Passaic students hoisted the rainbow flag on school grounds for the first time last June to celebrate Pride month, New Jersey’s recognition of LGBTQ+ people and the struggle for equality.

There was no policy in place when the Pride flag went up last year, and some people in Passaic made what board vice chairman L. Daniel Rodriguez termed “inquiries” as to who authorized it.

Board members say their actions was done in the spirit of fairness after the “inquiries” which the LGBTQ+ students and their allies say is discriminatory.

“They disrespected us as a community,” said Jaylie Barrett, a senior at Passaic PREP. “Why did they change the policy? They won’t tell us why.”

At a board meeting on Monday after the student led protest, Board members listened but made no commitment. School Board President Christina Schratz told the audience that trustees “will continue the conversation about the policy.”

“I’m all for seeing what we can do as a district,” she said. “I am very grateful that they express their concerns. This is the way democracy works.”

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New Jersey

NJ groups urge school districts to reinstate policy on trans students

The groups say without this policy 5756, districts open to legal liability & students and families may believe their schools are not safe

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The groups say without this policy, not only are districts open to legal liability, but students and families may believe their schools are not safe and welcoming environments. (Photo Courtesy of the New Jersey Governor's Office)

By Sophie Nieto-Munoz | ASBURY PARK, N.J. – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and Garden State Equality sent letters to 16 school districts across New Jersey this week urging them to reinstate a policy they say protects transgender youth. 

The groups say without this policy — known as policy 5756 — not only are districts open to legal liability, but students and families may believe their schools are not safe and welcoming environments. The policy outlines responsibilities districts have to protect LGBTQ students under state and federal law. 

“School administrators must do everything they can to protect trans kids. As LGBTQ+ rights face renewed threats across the country, New Jersey has a responsibility to lead by example and ensure that students in our state feel safe, supported, and respected,” ACLU-NJ staff attorney Elyla Huertas said in a statement.

The policy, which is not mandatory, says school officials should have open but confidential discussions with their transgender students to ascertain the students’ preferences on their chosen names, pronouns, and parental communications. It was introduced in 2018 after a law signed by then-Gov. Chris Christie directed state education officials to create a policy regarding transgender students.

It came under fire last year when state Attorney General Matt Platkin’s office filed civil rights complaints against four school districts that sought to implement policies requiring school officials to tell parents about the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBTQ students. Platkin critics said his office was improperly trampling on their rights to know personal details about their children. After state officials conceded during those court fights that policy 5756 was not mandatory, a handful of school districts repealed it.   

“At a time when we are seeing attacks against LGBTQ+ students proliferate throughout the state and country, showing your students that you are protecting them is crucial for their ability to feel safe, supported, and respected in the school environment,” the letter states.

Sparta is among the school districts that received the letter. Its school board president, Kurt Morris, told the New Jersey Monitor that the ACLU-NJ’s concerns are “unfounded” because the district readopted the policy at its December 2023 meeting. Officials from other districts did not respond to requests for comment. 

A letter also went to Union Township’s schools. The district’s board president, Cortney Dominianni-Smith, said school officials there agree with the ACLU that transgender students, like all students, should be treated respectfully and in a nondiscriminatory manner.

“The District has numerous policies protecting the rights of all students, including transgender students and guaranteeing them equal access to all programs and opportunities in the Union Township Schools,” she said.

Studies show that LGBTQ+ youth face higher rates of bullying and harassment at school, and are more likely to be alienated from their families or communities. LGBTQ+ children are more likely to experience housing instability, and are four times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their straight and cisgender peers.

“All of the data show affirming schools are a lifeline for LGBTQ+ students,” said Lauren Albrecht, Garden State Equality’s director of advocacy and organizing. “So when schools don’t know — or outright reject research-backed, educator-approved, and, until recently, uncontroversial guidelines for — how to meet the well-documented needs of these students, it isn’t hyperbole to say lives are at risk.”

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart’s grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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The preceding article was previously published by the New Jersey Monitor and is republished with permission.

New Jersey Monitor provides fair and tough reporting on the issues affecting New Jersey, from political corruption to education to criminal and social justice. We strive to hold powerful people accountable and explain how their actions affect New Jerseyans from Montague to Cape May.

New Jersey Monitor, PO Box 6843, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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New Jersey

Bomb threat over drag storytime clears NJ LGBTQ Center

The Princeton Police Department received an email from an unknown person containing derogatory remarks aimed at LGBTQIA members

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Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber, founder of the Bayard Rustin Center with drag performer Harmonica Sunbeam, April 2023. (Photo Credit: Bayard Rustin Center)

PRINCETON, N.J. – A drag queen story hour at the Bayard Rustin Center For Social Justice located in central Princeton, just off the campus of Princeton University, was disrupted after police received a bomb threat communicated via an email.

Sarah Salvadore, a field editor for the local Patch reported:

Around 10:49 a.m., the Princeton Police Department received an email from an unknown person containing derogatory remarks aimed at LGBTQIA members and those affiliated with the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice (BRCSJ), police said.

Officers were immediately dispatched to the building and the occupants were evacuated. A canine sweep of the building and surrounding area was completed, and no explosive devices were found, police said.

Around 12:40 p.m., the occupants were allowed back into the building.

The police issued a statement on August 28: “On Saturday, August 26, at 10:49 a.m., the Princeton Police Department received an e-mail communication from an unknown author. The e-mail contained derogatory remarks aimed at LGBTQIA members and those affiliated with the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. Additionally, the author stated numerous explosive devices were placed in and around the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice.

“Police officers were dispatched to the building and the occupants were immediately evacuated. A canine sweep of the building and surrounding area was completed, and no explosive devices were found. At about 12:40 p.m., the occupants were allowed back into the building.

“The Detective Bureau is conducting a follow-up investigation into the case. When more information is available, an additional press release will be issued.”

Reacting to the threat, Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber, founder of the Bayard Rustin Center said in a statement:

“The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice is founded on the very principle of building family through community as our queer ancestors have always done. The safe-space we offer to our LGBTQIA youth, intersectional families, & all our beautifully diverse folx is not only a physical entity but indeed something we carry within our hearts & our souls. These despicable actions threatened, this dishonest bigoted rhetoric espoused, this abhorrent hate will only ever be answered by a stronger, braver, & more empowering message of love.

This darkness will always & ever be dispelled by the light of us gathering together, more resilient & more stalwart in strength & solidarity. This principle was put into direct & robust action today as this bomb threat might’ve kept us from our BRCSJ HQ but did not stop us from gathering together in Beloved Community & in family, chosen & otherwise,” Seda-Schreiber said.

The drag queen Carrie Dragshaw (also known as Dan Clay), read stories at the new location, but wearing a baseball cap instead of his wig, left behind in the quick relocation. (Photo by Robert Zurfluh/Bayard Rustin Center)

“We simply took a fabulous field trip down the block to a nearby stoop & shared our stories, created community, & embraced each other, both literally & figuratively, with great respect & even more LOVE! We want to thank all the family & community members who showed up & glowed up today, our Drag Queen Carrie Dragshaw, whose lack of wig was made up by far more spirit, & the Princeton Police Department who were kind & considerate as they did their due diligence to keep us all safe,” Seda-Schreiber added.

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New Jersey

NJ Attorney General sues over LGBTQ+ students policy

The Hanover Township Board of Education’s new policy directs staff to out students sexual orientation & gender identity to parents

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Hanover Township New Jersey schools face backlash over LGBTQ+ policy. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS-2 New York CIty)

TRENTON – New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced the filing of a Division on Civil Rights (DCR) complaint this week challenging an unlawful policy enacted by the Hanover Township Board of Education.

The Hanover Township Board of Education earlier this week implemented the new policy, which directs all school staff to immediately inform parents on a variety of issues about their children — from anxiety and self-harm to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The administrative complaint and the motion for a preliminary injunction allege that the policy enacted by the Board of Education violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (LAD) prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The complaint asserts that this new policy discriminates against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, targeting transgender students and other students who identify as LGBTQ+ and requiring parental notification for LGBTQ+ youth but not their peers. 

The complaint also asserts that the parental notification policy has a disparate impact on LGBTQ+ youth:  Because the policy requires school staff to “out” LGBTQ+ youth to their parents, it exposes them to severe harms to their safety and mental health.  The policy also runs counter to guidance from the New Jersey Department of Education concerning the confidentiality and privacy of such information.

“We will always stand up for the LGBTQ+ community here in New Jersey and look forward to presenting our arguments in court in this matter,” said Platkin.  “We are extremely proud of the contributions LGBTQ+ students make to our classrooms and our communities, and we remain committed to protecting them from discrimination in our schools.”

ACLU of New Jersey’s Legal Director Jeanne LoCicero said in a statement released on May 17:

“We appreciate that the Attorney General and the Division of Civil Rights took swift action to prevent the implementation of a discriminatory and intrusive school policy. The rights of all students, including LGBTQ+ students, must be respected and protected. 

“Students are protected by New Jersey’s constitution and the Law Against Discrimination and may share or withhold information about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their parents, teachers, and other parties.  
 
“Disclosing a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents without a student’s full and voluntary consent not only invades their privacy, but can open an LGBTQ+ student to depression, bullying, suicide, violence or even abandonment by families. Enacting a policy that has teachers policing their schools to out LGBTQ+ students is a disconcerting return to tactics used to criminalize sexual orientation and gender identity. It targets students based on their LGBTQ+ status and cannot stand.” 

Attorney General Platkin also filed a motion in Superior Court requesting temporary restraints and a preliminary injunction against the policy’s implementation while the administrative complaint is being adjudicated.

“Our state civil rights laws are clear: New Jersey does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” said Sundeep Iyer, Director of the Division on Civil Rights.  “We will continue do everything in our power to enforce the robust protections our laws provide and to ensure that LGBTQ+ youth remain safe in our schools.”

The policy challenged today was enacted by the Board of Education on May 16, 2023. It provides that all school staff members shall “immediately, fully and accurately inform a student’s parent(s) whenever such staff member is made aware of, directly or indirectly, any facts or circumstances that may have a material impact on the student’s physical and/or mental health, safety and/or social/emotional well-being,” including, among other things, a student’s “sexuality,” “sexual orientation,” “transitioning,” and “gender identity or expression.”

Hanover Township schools face backlash over LGBTQ+ policy:

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New Jersey

N.J. Governor declares ‘safe haven’ for trans, nonbinary people

Murphy, a second-term Democrat who is rumored to be eyeing a presidential run, is pushing to make the Garden State a transgender refuge

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Governor Phil Murphy surrounded by trans advocates signs EO protecting trans people (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

By Sophie Nieto-Munoz | TRENTON – While other states pass bans on transgender health care, New Jersey will be a “safe haven” for those seeking gender-affirming care, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

Murphy signed an executive order Tuesday directing all state departments and agencies to protect those providing or receiving gender-affirming health care services. Under the order, state officials will be barred from cooperating in other states’ investigations into whether someone sought the care in New Jersey, and extradition to other states in those instances will be prohibited.

“Across the nation, we are witnessing attacks led by certain states that seek to undermine the equality, dignity, and safety of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially transgender and nonbinary youth,” Murphy said in a statement. “As leaders, our greatest responsibility is ensuring that every person we represent, regardless of their gender identity or gender expression, is entitled to respect, fairness, and freedom.”

New Jersey is estimated to be home to more than 30,000 transgender and nonbinary residents, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA.

Murphy, a second-term Democrat who is rumored to be eyeing a presidential run, is pushing to make the Garden State a transgender refuge as nearly a dozen other states advance policies and laws to limit care for transgender and nonbinary people.

At least four states have banned gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, and more than 110 pieces of legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights or attacking transgender youth have been introduced in state legislatures around the country, according to data from the ACLU.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been attacking transgender residents by asking public colleges to share statistics around students who have been treated for gender dysphoria and banning medical services for transgender minors, In an interview with Insider published Monday, Murphy criticized DeSantis’ policies specifically.

Medical experts say denying gender-affirming care is not only discriminatory but contributes to higher rates of suicide.

Murphy’s executive order came shortly after the state commemorated International Transgender Day of Visibility with a new website providing information for transgender residents. The site will act as a centralized hub touting programs and services to support transgender and nonbinary people. It includes information like how to change your name and where to find legal help.

The site is paid for by federal COVID-19 relief money, which spurred an outcry from Ocean County Republicans. They blasted the governor for using the pandemic funds while other “critical needs” go ignored.

“He could have helped struggling businesses, prevented cuts to our schools, or fixed the broken unemployment system, but building a transgender website was his priority. It’s ridiculous,” said Sen. James Holzapfel.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association.

Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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The preceding piece was previously published by the New Jersey Monitor and is republished with permission.

New Jersey Monitor provides fair and tough reporting on the issues affecting New Jersey, from political corruption to education to criminal and social justice. We strive to hold powerful people accountable and explain how their actions affect New Jerseyans from Montague to Cape May.

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New Jersey

NJ school district reverses cancelling musical ‘Prom’ after backlash

Cedar Grove High School and district officials initially canceled the production due to “inappropriate” content

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Cedar Grove High School GSA mural (Photo by Bex Schwartz)

CEDAR GROVE, Nj. – The Cedar Grove Public Schools District reversed its decision to cancel a ‘High School Edition’ of ‘The Prom’ after intense backlash from LGBTQ+ students, their families.

Actor Josh Lamon, who starred “The Prom” when it ran on Broadway, who posted on his Instagram page; “This is infuriating and deeply homophobic. There is nothing inappropriate in or about the show.”

“The Prom,” is a Tony-nominated 2016 musical about a lesbian student who wants to bring her girlfriend to her school prom based on a federal lawsuit against the Itawamba County School District in Fulton, Mississippi brought by Constance McMillen, an Out lesbian senior was who banned from bringing her girlfriend to senior prom in 2011 and also from wearing a tuxedo.

McMillen and the ACLU sued and a federal court found the district guilty of violating McMillen’s First Amendment rights.

Cedar Grove High School and district officials initially canceled the production due to “inappropriate” content.

But, after a social media campaign led by Bec Alt, a guidance counselor at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, a public high school specializing in teaching visual arts and performing arts, located near Lincoln Center in the Upper West Side of New York City, in addition to the local outcry, the Cedar Grove Public Schools District backed off.

According to the Star Ledger/NJ.com, the district’s superintendent said Friday the school will stage a “High School Edition” of the play that has been modified by its creators for family audiences.

“After further inquiry with the licensing organization, we were informed that a High School Edition of ‘The Prom’ just became available. Therefore, Cedar Grove Public Schools fully supports producing the High School Edition of the musical ‘The Prom,’ which was not previously available at the time of licensing,” said Cedar Grove Superintendent Anthony Grosso.

“When a production is in the process of being produced at the high school level, shows that were meant for Broadway may have language in the script of songs that could be inappropriate to our younger audience or other members of the community,” Grosso wrote in an email sent to a concerned community member reported the Star Ledger/NJ.com.

“Therefore, a Jr. version of a play would need to be produced to accommodate our potential audience,” Grosso said. “Cedar Grove Public Schools fully supports producing the Jr. version of the musical, allowing our students to continue to produce the show at a level that allows our students to express their creativity through the art of performance.”

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N.J. Gov. orders review of LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed amid GOP attacks

“It is paramount that our standards also promote inclusivity and respect for every child, including LGBTQ youth”

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New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy (Screenshot NBC News/Meet The Press)

TRENTON – New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy Wednesday ordered the state’s Department of Education to review LGBTQ-inclusive sex education standards set to start in the fall amid conservative attacks over the policy. 

In a release, Murphy announced he directed the education department “to review the standards and provide further clarification on what age-appropriate guidelines look like for our students.” 

The order came as conservatives ramp up attacks on the standards, with some saying it’s “psychological torture” and “predatory grooming.” 

The standards, adopted by the New Jersey Board of Education in 2020, outline what the sex education curriculum will look like in the state come next school year. 

Under the curriculum, second grade kids will discuss gender expression; fifth graders will know the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity; and eigth grade students will learn to promote “dignity and respect” for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

The policy also includes education standards around physical and mental health, safety and substance abuse consequences. It was modeled on proposed national standards developed by leading health education groups.

In his statement, Murphy referenced the right-wing attacks on the curriculum – which have ramped up in recent weeks with the release of sample resources for educators – saying that the “learning standards have been intentionally misrepresented by some politicians seeking to divide and score political points.” Though the resources reference pornography and masturbation, those topics are not included in the standards.

“We have seen a handful of sample lesson plans being circulated that have not been adopted in our school districts and do not accurately reflect the spirit of the standards,” Murphy said. “Any proposed educational content that is not age-appropriate should be immediately revised by local officials.”

Liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America recently reported that attacks on the curriculum caught the eyes of Fox News pundits, who used a sample lesson plan to falsely claim that students would be required to learn about gender identity by the end of second grade. Others have also made anti-Trans remarks, according to the Media Matters. 

As a guest on Fox News, Washington Times opinion editor Charlie Hurt said that gender-identity education “goes beyond just predatory grooming. This goes to the point of really psychological torture of children.”

In addition, state Senate Republicans Monday called on Murphy and Senate President Nicholas Scutari to halt the implementation of the standards and hold public hearings. They cited the “rapidly growing” number of parents who are “extremely concerned” over the policy “that they believe are inappropriate for their children or in conflict with their values.”

“We should empower parents, not ignore them,” read the letter. 

But Murphy ensured that the curriculum was crafted with care and is age-appropriate. 

“At a time when we must prioritize student mental health and academic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is paramount that our standards also promote inclusivity and respect for every child, including LGBTQ youth,” he added. 

Bills limiting how LGBTQ+ issues can be taught to children in schools have enthralled Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the country. 

Late last month, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, which will ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and allow parents to sue schools or teachers. Shortly after being signed, Equality Florida and Family Equality announced a lawsuit against the law.
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey also signed a bill with a last-minute amendment to keep educators from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms.

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New Jersey lawmakers pass law to protect same-sex marriages

“We don’t want to see those rights lost to an arch-conservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees”

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New Jersey State House, Trenton NJ (Blade file photo)

TRENTON – Both Houses of New Jersey’s legislature passed a bill (A5367) Monday that would protect the rights of same-sex couples in the state to be able to marry in the wake of fears raised that the current conservative U.S. Supreme Court could potentially reverse its 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644.

The Newark-based Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest online newspaper, reported last week that the landmark civil rights case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was perceived by state lawmakers to be in danger as a result of the High Court’s potentially getting rid of a decades-old precedence that gives women access to abortions.

Some legal experts have pointed out that the ruling in the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade granting access to abortion has also been foundational as case law precedence for civil rights cases such as Obergefell.

The Star-Ledger reported that the state Senate voted 35-4 on Monday afternoon. The Assembly passed it by a 53 to-10 vote with four abstentions at 11:14 p.m. Monday, near the end of what was shaping up to be a 10-hour voting session.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign it into law.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in the state since October 2013, when the state Supreme Court declined to hear a lower court ruling that said a ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection guarantee of the state’s constitution.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, told the Star-Ledger “devoted same-sex couples all across New Jersey are raising families as contributing members of their communities.”

“We fought to correct the injustice that denied these rights for too many loving couples for far too long,” Weinberg added. “We don’t want to see those rights lost to an arch-conservative agenda of recent Supreme Court appointees.”

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New Jersey legislators move to codify same-sex marriage into law

The statutes have never caught up to court decisions […] it’s important that we take this step & ensure that our law enshrines these rights

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Assemblymember Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) (Photo Credit; New Jersey Assembly Democrats)

TRENTON – A bill introduced this past February that codifies same-sex marriage into state statutes was advanced out of the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee Thursday on a 4-0 vote. New Jersey Assembly Bill 5367  reads in part “laws concerning marriage and civil union shall be read with gender neutral intent.”

Assemblymember Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), the committee chair, told Politico; “The statutes of our state have never caught up to the court decisions […] which no longer treated same-sex couples as second class citizens. So it’s important that we take this step and ensure that our law enshrines these rights.”

The legislation’s author, Somerset lawyer Bill Singer testified to the committee noting; “Since that decision, [Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644] at least two or three of the present justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have questioned that decision and called for its reversal, where does that leave same sex couples in New Jersey? Their right to marry hangs from the slender thread of a single decision by a trial court judge. That’s precarious.”

Alarms bells about a reversal of Obergefell v. Hodges, were sounded by some LGBTQ+ legal groups after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern on whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her; “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

Politico reported that an earlier bill to legalise same-sex marriage had stated no religious group or institution “shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods, or privileges related to” marriage that is in violation of their beliefs and indemnified them from lawsuits. The Senate pulled the bill and has not acted on it since.

The bill that advanced Thursday does not include any religious exemptions, effectively leaving it up to courts.

One of those opposed to the law is a self-labeled ‘ex-gay’ conservative Christian pastor Gregory Quinlan who testified against the law before the committee.

“No one is born gay. The science is zero. And so for that reason there is no justification to codify homosexual marriage or any of the sundry identities that have been put out over the last number of years,” Quinlan said.

That brought a sharp rebuke from the committee chair who said; “I think your comments are three fries short of a Happy Meal.”

“Why would you be so hateful towards my comments?” Quinlan said.

“I respect your right to speak but I find your comments to be abhorrent and hateful,” Mukherji shot back.

The New Jersey State Senate President Steve Sweeney publicly stated that he would like to see a quick vote in the lower house and that he would like to pass the bill in the upper house on Dec. 20.

Sweeney told Politico he became alarmed after it became clear to him that the U.S. Supreme Court would likely “gut” Roe v. Wade, declaring, “If they can do that, same-sex marriage can be the next thing.”

Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization which represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases is urging caution in how people interpret the Mississippi oral arguments and remarks made by the justices.

We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing.  All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative supreme court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

New Jersey’s lawmakers are more sanguine in their assessment but want to make certain that the state’s same-sex couples are protected in law just in case an Assemblymember told the Blade on background.

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