InsiderNJ’s 6th Annual OUT 100 Power List, a tribute to political influential LGBTs in NJ politics, comes out June 30. In the meantime here’s a tribute to some straight allies to whet your appetite.
Years from now, someone (probably me) will write the definitive anthology of NJ queer liberation with the historical perspective it deserves. And when that happens, you’ll surely notice that many of the heroes weren’t even LGBT.
Here we honor the straight allies who made our cause their cause.
NJ Senator Andrew Zwicker reacted quickly to the book-ban trend sweeping the nation by those who want to cancel anything remotely LGBT-related. Calling it a 1st Amendment free-speech issue, Mr. Zwicker’s high-profile media campaign to protect free expression also included legislation to ban book-bans in New Jersey.
“This is about preventing censorship and keeping intolerance and hatred from being infused into public libraries in New Jersey,” said Senator Zwicker. “The fact that we are in 2023 and debating whether or not we should be banning books and ideas is just outrageous. Ideas and information are meant to be discussed and debated in a society that respects the right of free expression and values the pursuit of knowledge.”
M. TERESA RUIZ
NJ Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, the co-prime sponsor of Zwicker’s anti-book ban legislation, has been sticking up for LGBT people her entire career, including the multiple times marriage equality legislation faltered in Trenton.
Before she voted YES for marriage equality back in the day, Ms. Ruiz had this to say: “If I have the opportunity to continue to serve here and the honor and privilege, I don’t ever want to take a vote that says ‘it’s okay for me, but not you.'”
Nearly 15 years later, Senator Ruiz is equally strident about these book bans.
“Our libraries are a sacred community resource, not a place for careless censorship. The materials they offer should not be restricted based on partisan views or revisionist history,” Mr. Ruiz said. “Libraries often provide the foundation for children’s education and become incubators of ideas. We must protect these critical institutions which continue to be instrumental in shaping young minds.”
A one-woman fundraising juggernaut, Nicole Davidman played a critical, unsung role of the campaign of NJ Assemblyman Don Guardian who trounced his well-funded completion to become NJ’s only gay state lawmaker.
Mr. Guardian is Trenton’s only Gay state lawmakers and Nicole Davidman was instrumental making that happen.
Maybe NJ Democrats can learn a thing to two from Ms. Davidman (a Republican) about electing LGBT candidates to the State House?
A board member at NOW and an advisory cabinet member at Emerge NJ, Anjali Mehrotra has preached the importance of substantive ally-ship for her entire career. It’s fine to slap a rainbow flag on your socials but what are you doing to protect and to materially improve the lives on LGBT people?
If you ever meet Anjali Mehrotra in person, be ready to answer that question.
The South Jersey Congressman delivered the stemwinder of the day when Congress was debating (and ultimately passing) Federal marriage equality legislation.
Deborah Cornavaca is Director of Government Relations – Politics and Policy at NJEA, NJ’s powerful teacher’s union. From the AIDS crisis until now, Ms. Cornavaca’s ally-ship has been without peer. And from her perch as NJEA’s top lobbyist, she’s poised the combat the growing wave of LGBT marginalization in schools and libraries.
Ms. Cornavaca’s LGBT activism is an ongoing tribute to her (gay) sister Karen Sara Erdman, of blessed memory.
Sometimes Garden State Equality nails it. And one of those times was their very public recognition of Shannon Preston, Program Manager at Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey, for her work protecting LGBTs (and everyone) from HIV, COVID, and MPox.
For that and her work safeguarding the long-term heath of NJ’s IV drug-using population, Ms. Preston and VNACJ received GSE’s Corporate Responsibility Award for 30+ years “as a pillar of healthcare in the community.”
We couldn’t agree more.
A candidate for NJ Senate in LD40, Jen Ehrentraut’s status as a legendary ally was cemented during the Chris Christie era. It was Ms. Ehrentraut’s cousin Tyler Clementi, of blessed memory, whose bullying-induced suicide led to NJ’s comprehensive anti-bullying legislation to protect all kids. Ms. Ehrentraut’s heartfelt, emotional testimony while testifying propelled passage of the bill and left everyone watching breathless.
Staci Berger is President and CEO at the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ where she works to combat homelessness, something that disproportionately affects LGBT youth in NJ and America. Ms. Berger is the leader of the progressive group that ensured non-binary residents in NJ can run for county committee posts, something previously not on offer until Ms. Berger (and her brilliant legal eagle Yael Bromberg) made their winning case in court.
ED DeVEAUX, SCOTT RUDDER, & TARA SARGENTE
The heart, brains, and soul of the NJ Cannabusiness Association, this pro-pot trio lead the largest cannabis trade group in New Jersey. Ed, Scott, and Tara never miss an opportunity to remind the world that Queer activism during the AIDS crisis set the table for cannabis legalization in America.
Jay Lassiter is a godless, multilingual, pot-smoking, pro-abortion homosexual living based in Cherry Hill, NJ. In his spare time, he enjoys reading banned books.