Listen to audio version of this article
Nine candidates in five districts to run for gender neutral seats in Middlesex County, in successful challenge to state law.
Central Jersey Progressive Democrats (CJPD) won a court challenge late yesterday to a state law requiring gender designation for party county committee seats. Superior Court Justice Mary C. Jacobson issued an order requiring Middlesex County Clerk Elaine M. Flynn to design a gender-neutral ballot for the four Middlesex County voting districts in which two women are running together, and for the one voting district in which a non-binary candidate is seeking to be a member of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization.
“This is a tremendous step forward for women and LGBTQIA individuals,” said the group’s attorney Yael Bromberg, who argued the case. “The binary gender quota was well-intentioned in the middle of the last century. However, as conceived, its time has passed in Middlesex County.
The quota proved to be a ceiling for CJPD rather than a floor, and an outright bar for gender-nonconforming candidates. This ruling opens the door for more women to run for office, and removes the flat-out barrier that non-binary people face from participating in democracy,” she said.
The ‘one-man, one-woman’ rule remains in use in some of New Jersey’s 21 counties. Mercer, Passaic, Hudson, Hunterdon, Cumberland and Essex County already allow candidates to run and serve regardless of their sex or gender identity. The candidates were thrilled by the judge’s ruling, which now
allows them to run for office to represent their neighbors and better serve their communities.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office responded in the matter on behalf of the State, which was listed as an interested party in the case. The Attorney General agreed with CJPD’s position that the law is unconstitutional, and advocated for “the need for uniformity on an important constitutional issue for elections conducted throughout the state.”
Non-binary candidate Em Phipps said, “It’s really important that the law doesn’t discriminate and that anyone can run for office, regardless of their gender identity. This is a great first step for democracy. I am really excited to be running and to talking with my neighbors about how to improve our community.”
Other candidates said they are thrilled with the court’s decision and look forward to campaigning:
Maggie Doyle Ball said, “I am glad I’ll be able to offer a fresh perspective and look forward to work to ensure a representative government supporting my community.”
Laura Leibowitz added, “I am very excited to be a part of forward thinking and inclusive change in Piscataway. This is why I am running for County Committee in my neighborhood.”
Following the judge’s ruling, progressive candidate Quiyana Butler noted, “Now it’s time to knock on doors and talk to the voters and explain the importance of this primary election. I’m not a politician,
just a neighbor next door who seeks progressive change in Piscataway!”