Equality Ball. Five Takeaways

(Asbury Park NJ) —

Garden State Equality’s annual Equality Ball is in the books! It was a festive soiree filled with booze, fellowship, and some really fun people. I’m a little hungover, so if this comes off a bit raw, that’s why. Here are my takeaways from the 2018 edition.


Monmouth GOP showed up dressed to impress. Senator Declan O’Scanlon, who’s straight but not narrow, arrived with his glamorous wife Heather. The county party’s top brass was also on hand: Sheriff Shaun Golden, Freeholder Director Tom Arnone, and County Clerk Christine Hanlon. Asbury Park is their turf so in that sense it’s a natural fit. But I’m old enough to remember when a Republican wouldn’t be caught dead at an LGBT event. Those days are blessedly over. There were loads of Republicans at the ball; drinking, dancing, and having a good time. They had fun and we had more fun for their presence. The only one missing was conservative provocateur Art Gallagher from Monmouth County Musings. Now that would have been a party!


Governor Phil Murphy was greeted like a rock star. The applause was extra lusty because Chris Christie is gone. But also because Phil Murphy walks the walk on LGBT rights. Murphy took a lot of time greeting guests and posing for selfies. All that glad-handing would wear me out but Murphy pulled it off with a generous, gracious spirit. Murphy’s speech itself was less rapturous than his ovation. Murphy excoriated President Trump for trying to toss transgender Americans out of the military. That’s especially wicked given Trump’s multiple Vietman draft deferrals.  At this point, the crowd was in unity, even the ones who voted for Trump. But then Murphy shifted into campaign mode and TBH by that point the crowd way oo drunk for all that.


Vaping. My first Equality Ball was in 2005, way back in the Steven Goldstein era. Back then I was the only one with the temerity to step outside and smoke a joint. Alone. It was has hard to find a coconspirator to PuffPuffPass it to. Those days are over. Everyone’s doing it. I’m no longer the only one holding. It’s not technically legal to share cannabis in NJ, even with fellow medical marijuana cardholders. Some people share, some people don’t. And if the Attorney General wants to come arrest us for sharing a joint in front of Asbury Lanes, I’ll make sure to turn the camera sideways before filming that whole scene.


Asbury Lanes, newly refurbished, hosted this year’s Equality Ball. Gone is the glorious shit-hole honkytonk we used to know and love. The impressive, expensive looking refurbishment is a fitting testament to Asbury Park’s ongoing reconnaissance. Change is hard. Even good change that we all end up embracing. And the clip of change has some Asbury Park residents badly missing the older, grittier model. I like the reboot. Especially the food.


$250,000. That how much we raised last night to bring LGBT liberty to every corner of the state. Marriage Equality was a massive milestone and America is better for it. But LGBT kids still suffer greater degrees of suicide, drug use, unsafe sex, and homelessness. I noticed a precipitous drop off in gay activism post-marriage equality. Fundraising got a lot harder. But last night’s massive haul suggests that post-marriage malaise is over.

“Raising a quarter of a million dollars speaks to the dedication of the staff and board of Garden State Equality,” GSE chair Christian Fuscarino told InsiderNJ. “Funds will be used to strengthen our organization and expand our education and health programs.”


Jay Lassiter is the court jester of NJ politics.



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