Insider NJ’s 2023 OUT 100: LGBT Power List

Insider Out: 100 LGBT

Download Insider NJ’s 2023 Insider OUT: 100 Power List or view it below

Welcome to Insider NJ’s 6th Annual OUT 100 LGBT Power List, a tribute to politically influential LGBT voices in New Jersey Politics.


What’s it like to be LGBT in New Jersey politics in the year 2023?

Short answer: it’s not that great.

In one corner we’ve got New Jersey’s long-dominant Democratic Party which has a demonstrably better voting record on LGBT issues than the GOP.

But is much of their support is performative?

New Jersey Democrats spent the month of June spreading Pride-themed rainbow memes online. But that barely masks their decades-long track record of treating gays like an ATM machine or (at best) campaign help.

Where are the LGBT Chiefs of Staff in Trenton? Where is the bench of “next generation” LGBT candidates to run for office?

There are no (zero) Democratic LGBT state lawmakers serving alongside republican Assemblyman Don Guardian, who alone comprises Trenton’s LGBT representation. Trenton Councilwoman Jennifer Williams, a moderate Republican, is the only transgender lawmaker at the municipal level in the state’s history.

New Jersey is a blue state largely governed by Democratic gatekeepers and it’s not working out that great for LGBT candidates, something professional gay Democrats appear loathe to admit.

And that gets me to the New Jersey Republican Party, which has an element that has been campaigning on crazy, anti-LGBT sentiment for as long as I’ve been paying attention. Early on in the battle for marriage equality, Republican legislators voted “NO” (mostly in lockstep) throughout the aughts and well into the Chris Christie era.  Anyone watching a series of GOP lawmakers weaponize their faith and indeed their God against queer people remembers how rancorous the battle would become.

There are echoes of that rancor in the current debate over trans issues and New Jersey’s novel and innovative LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. If you’re curious what the homophobic right-wing stands for, just remember we’re now into the third month of a collective meltdown because a beer company put a transgender person in a commercial.

And that’s pretty much the national Republican platform in 2023, alongside controlling the outcome of every pregnancy in America.

And thanks to GOP priorities, censorship of books in schools is on the rise. New Jersey is no exception as we see some school districts around the state actively work to eliminate any evidence of gay (and especially transgender) people from the curriculum and from the library.

Right-wing conservatives are on fire for this debate so if circulating petitions is our best response, we will surely lose this battle.

Many LGBT advocates in New Jersey, myself included, were caught flat-footed at this sudden, rancorous embrace of regressive moves such as book bans. And instead of a nimble, aggressive ACTUP-style fight-back (complete with media- and-campaign strategy for Board of Education seats), we clutched our pearls. We decried what we observed with platitudes like “No Hate in the Garden State”, despite ample evidence to the contrary that there is, in many quarters.

How we fight back? That’s always on us.

And what we settle for? That’s on us, too.

So that’s what it’s like to be LGBT in New Jersey politics: one party throws us under the bus for political points and the other party scores by pandering in obsequious and performative ways.

Most rank-and-file GOP voters don’t hate LGBT people. Likewise, Democratic voters don’t treat their gay friends like an ATM.

It’s time the Democrats and Republicans running Trenton followed suit.

Download Insider NJ’s 2023 Insider OUT: 100 LGBT Power List or view it below:

Insider Out 100: LGBT
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