InsiderNJ’s 2nd LGBT Power List comes out Monday October 21st. Here’s a little tribute to some amazing allies to whet your appetite in the meantime.
Years from now, someone will write the definitive anthology of 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 marched with us and who made our cause theirs.
You could fill several scrolls with the very long list of straight allies who had our back along the way. The names below are the most durable, unwavering straight allies that NJ’s LGBT community has ever knows. Their commitment to our cause never faltered once.
(If you don’t see your favorite straight ally below, check last year’s inaugural edition. Click and scroll down to page 46.)
JAMEL HOLLEY When he officiated the very first gay wedding in NJ history Jamel Holley forever cemented himself into the annals of queer liberation. If there’s pro-LGBT legislation in the statehouse, Jamel is probably the prime sponsor.
JENNIFER HOLDSWORTH. I’ll go ahead and say it: she worked to propel Mayor Pete Buttigieg onto the national stage and then she helped set the table for Pete’s historic run for president. LGBTs figure prominently on each campaign Jennifer Holdsworth has ever run. And that’s a lot of campaigns.
SALENA CARROLL LESNIAK Our beloved friend Salena passed away this year after a lifetime commitment to her LGBT family. Our broken hearts still mourn.
ROSI EFTHIM & JOEY NOVICK The godmother and godfather of Blue Jersey Nation, Rosi and Joey sat with us at the back of the bus. Then they took us through domestic partnerships and onto civil unions and finally marriage equality. And then they sat with us at our weddings. Rosi and Joey. When they’re not sitting with us, they’re standing for us.
GURBIR GREWAL When Gurbir Grewal became NJ’s Attorney General, he looked to our LGBT community to fill multiple leadership posts. For most of my activist career, relations between law enforcement and the LGBT community have been fraught. So for NJ’s AG to stand with us so emphatically is a remarkable sign of progress.
TAYLOR HUDSON A former NCAA Division 1 varsity wrestler, Taylor Hudson has wholeheartedly dedicated himself to increasing opportunities for queers in sports by founding Athlete Ally.
SHANNON PETERSON-PRESTON Shannon runs the needle exchange program in Asbury Park and her advocacy protects our community from expensive, IV drug-related cooties. She goes to work every day to protect LGBTs on the margins. And she’s tirelessly creating a climate where drug users are more likely to get help.
KEVIN RYAN LGBT kids are more likely to find themselves homeless than their straight peers. As CEO of Covenant House, Kevin Ryan fights to ensure safer, more inclusive and affirming care for the disproportionate number of LGBT kids who show up because they quite literally have nowhere else to go.
STEPHANIE HUNNELL The Monmouth County-based attorney has lent her legal savvy to the cause of LGBT equality for long enough that she scored the most nomination for this list. I think that makes her Most Popular.
CHRISTOPHER MENSCHNER New Jersey’s Deputy Health Commissioner leads NJDOH’s division of HIV, STD and TB services. Equality includes sexual health too. And Christopher’s commitment to curbing transmissions and ending the stigma is legendary.
ANNETTE QUIJANO As chairwoman of the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee, Annette Quijano bangs an actual gavel for equality. That’s not a metaphor.
JANE CLEMENTI She devoted her life to our cause when her son Tyler committed suicide after being bullied and humiliated by his roommate. No one has paid more dearly to earn her stripes as an ally than Jane Clementi. And so here we honor her and bear witness to her incalculable loss.
Honorable mentions include: Jersey City’s Brian Platt, Robert Seda-Schreiber from Bayard Rustin Center, Essex Freeholder Pat Sebold, Rev Linda Pope of First Baptist Church in Moorestown, Cannabis legalizer Ken Wolski, Brick’s Emma Thompson Mamano, and the very Reverend Linda Lillian Krooze
Jay Lassiter is a longtime LGBT activist and the archivist for NJ queer political culture.