Download Insider NJ’s 2021 Insider OUT: 100 LGBTQ Power List or view it below
Welcome to InsiderNJ’s 4th Annual OUT 100 Power List, a tribute to politically influential LGBTQs in NJ Politics.
They called it “the gayest corner in town” because it was the gayest corner in town.
When I contemplate the scene at Paddock Bar, a 1950’s-era gay bar in Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore, a few smells come to mind: there’s cigarette smoke because everyone smoked back then, some diesel exhaust from Main Street, and there’s also the smell of sweaty, furtive patrons.
It’s sweaty because central air isn’t really a thing in the 50’s and it’s furtive because everything was furtive back then for LGBTQ people in an era when tools of the state were routinely harnessed to punish Queer people.
For example, up until 1967, it was illegal in New Jersey to serve alcohol to an LGBTQ person.
NJ’s Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) was explicit, routinely harassing and shuttering bars that “allowed, permitted and suffered female impersonators and persons who appeared to be homosexuals (to) … congregate in large numbers … in a manner offensive to common decency and public morals.”
Earlier this year, New Jersey’s then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal acknowledged “the systematic targeting of gay bars between 1933 and 1967” by ABC, a division of the his office.
“More than 50 years later, there is little that I can say, except that I am sorry,” Grewal told the crowd on a scorching summer day near the erstwhile “gayest spot in town” where Paddock Bar once hosted LGBTQ people from near and far.
“I am sorry on behalf of our Attorney General’s office, I’m sorry on behalf of our ABC. I am truly sorry about what we did. Rather than protecting New Jersey’s residents, we hurt them. Rather than advancing the cause of justice, we set it back. You deserve more from your government, and your government failed you. While we cannot undo the past, we can ensure that nothing like it ever happens again,” Grewal said, hoping to partially atone for decades of anti-LGBTQ treatment at the hands of our own government.
There’s now a plaque at the Braddock Bar’s former site to commemorate and reflect on.
Grewal’s apology included a symbolic act of contrition: he vacated over 125 infractions still on the books against dozens of bars who lost their liquor license simply for hosting and serving Queer people.
Crazy huh? Crazier still: for decades, our liquor laws (ie: tools of the state) were weaponized against LGBTQ people and I had no idea this ever took place. I knew about the Stonewall raids, but never quite made the connection to systemic state-sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people that was happening all over the nation at that point. That’s partially my own ignorance. But it also reflects a historical narrative that routinely overlooked/omitted anything that might cast queer people sympathetically.
Stonewall didn’t unfold at a think tank or a college campus or in the halls of power. It happened at a gay bar where, on a fateful night in June of 1969, Stonewall patrons finally fought back.
But weaponized liquor laws, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Systematic oppression was also codified into tax laws, inheritance laws, employment laws, marriage laws, adoption laws and on and on.
Before gay marriage became Federal law in 2015, there were no survivor’s benefits from Social Security for gay couples. Think about how many LGBTQ people died and those benefits go, not to a grieving partner, but back into the US Treasury instead. Achieving marriage equality in 2015 was a remarkable milestone but it didn’t much help our Queer elders who fell into poverty, a victim of Social Security laws that systemically discriminated against game-sex couples.
I could go on but you get the idea. And you’ll get a fuller idea of the systematic oppression I’m talking about when you read the following tributes about 100 people who’ve already changed the world.
Last year’s edition didn’t include politicians who we listed separately. So if the ranking of your fave took a dip this year, that’s probably why. If you don’t see yourself listed this year, I’ll say thanks for making room for over a dozen new faces.
Finally, there’s a big election in New Jersey on November 2 and the two men running for Governor have radically different philosophies about what LGBTQ liberty looks like.
In one corner, there’s the GOP candidate for Governor Jack Ciattarelli, recently quoted out on the campaign trail fearmongering about “sodomy.” And yes he actually used that word in an attempt to reduce the entire LGBTQ experience into a sex act.
Meanwhile, Governor Phil Murphy, the Democratic incumbent had this to say about the people on this list:
“From advocacy to government service to the private sector, these individuals have distinguished themselves as leaders in our state’s vibrant LGBTQIA+ community,” Governor Murphy said. “My Administration will continue to work closely with all honorees to build a stronger, fairer, and more inclusive New Jersey.”
New Jersey Votes
Sincerely, Jay Lassiter
Download Insider NJ’s 2021 Insider OUT: 100 LGBTQ Power List or view it below:2021 OUT 100
- Andrew Bruck
- Brian McGinnis
- Chris Hillman
- Dave Parano
- Don Guardian
- Elaine Helms
- Franceline Ehret
- Gary Paul Wright
- gay politics in NJ
- gays in NJ politics
- Jake Hudnut
- Jay Lassiter
- Jeannine LaRue
- Jennifer Williams
- Jeremy Feigenbaum
- Julia Fahl
- Kari Osmond
- Kathy Ahearn-O'Brien
- Marianna Pontoriero
- Mike DeFusco
- Nina Davis
- Pat Hansen
- Peter Yacobellis
- Rebecca Williams
- Reed Gusciora
- Rich Rockwell
- Shawn LaTourette
- Shep Pettibone
- Sue Fulton
- Tom Prol
- Tonio Burgos
- Wesley McWhite
Click here for the full Insider Index