Tag Archives: Garden State equality

N.J. teacher who posted anti-gay Facebook rant resigns

A New Jersey teacher who caused a furor with anti-gay comments on Facebook has resigned.

Jenye “Viki” Knox is a 21-year teaching veteran who has worked in the Union Township schools since 2000.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that the 51-year-old woman resigned her post over the summer and that settlement talks are under way in a tenure case against her.

Knox was suspended from job and accused of conduct unbecoming of a teacher last year after she posted on her Facebook page that homosexuality was a sin that “breeds like cancer” and described it as “perverted.”

The school district also said Knox sent emails to administrators accusing gay and lesbian teachers of “targeting” students and posted on another teacher’s Facebook page opposition to the formation of a gay-straight alliance: “Well, if I knew UHS was going to Hell in a handbasket before I know it for sure now!”

Knox, according to the Star-Ledger, said any of her Facebook posts are protected under the First Amendment and that she did not send school officials any emails.

Knox previously said in court papers that she planned to seek a disability pension due to a back injury and on “psychological grounds.” She filed pension papers in June.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, New Jersey public schools observed a Week of Respect,” a program that developed from passage of the state’s anti-bullying bill of rights in 2011. The legislation, sponsored by Garden State Equality, is considered the strongest in the nation on the issue.

Garden State Equality statement on impending veto

The day after the New Jersey General Assembly approved a marriage equality bill, Garden State Equality chair Steven Goldstein issued a statement about his relationship with the governor, the equality battle and what a veto might mean for LGBT people in the state.

The following is Goldstein’s statement:

As we await the governor’s veto of the marriage equality bill, I beg your indulgence if this statement is a bit more personal than usual.  Many in Trenton know that Gov. Christie and I have a good relationship. This may come as a surprise, and even disappointment, to some of Garden State Equality’s members, but I like the governor personally even though I agree with him on almost nothing. 

I came of political age where leaders who disagree passionately on the issues, who even fight with one another like cats and dogs in the political arena, were able put the fights aside and see one another as people.  I grew up at a time when the legendary Democratic speaker of the U.S. House, Tip O’Neill – a hero of mine – and President Reagan did exactly that. And it’s always been my philosophy in dealing with Gov. Christie and his Administration.

And having worked for several public officials myself, I know there’s a heck of lot more to them than their public images would suggest. No public figure is the two-dimensional character of the headlines.   As Garden State Equality’s leader, I have worked closely with this governor on issues upon which we agree, notably to counter school bullying. 

As I have said before, where we agree with them on the issues, Gov. Christie and his administration have treated us with warmth and responsiveness.  Yes is yes, no is no, and we’ll get back to you means they get back to you faster than you thought, usually with invaluable help.

And that’s precisely why Gov. Christie’s veto of the marriage equality bill will hurt so badly.  We’re not naïve – we’ve always known he would veto the bill, and frankly, I was always a bit puzzled by the silly tea-leaf reading and phantasmagoric hopes that perhaps the governor would look deep inside his heart and let the bill become law.  Ridiculous.  I know this governor, and when he says he’ll do something, take him at his word, for better and here for worse.

It’s why I chose not to waste a breath in pleading with the governor not to veto – and have put Garden State Equality immediately to work to achieve an override.  The great news is, we have until the end of the legislative session, in January 2014, to do it.  

That doesn’t obviate the pain of the governor’s veto.  Because I do know him, I also know he is not some anti-LGBT nut.  He is no Rick Santorum.  Frankly, I don’t think Chris Christie has an anti-gay bone in his body, however much I cannot say the same about his impending veto.  His veto will be a brutally anti-gay act, pure and simple.

The governor keeps calling for a referendum, which everyone knows will never happen in New Jersey.  To borrow the governor’s words, it’s time for him to stop engaging in political theater.  Our lives are not La Cage Aux Folles:  LGBT people fall in love, raise families, often children whom the rest of society shuns, and pay taxes in what is still one of the most heavily taxed states in the country. 

Our governor knows our contributions to society.  He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay.  He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina Republican Presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.  And if I get flooded with letters now from Charleston, so be it.

And that’s what hurts so badly.   I like this governor and am able to see him beyond the headlines.  When you are rejected by someone you want so badly to love you unconditionally – my own parents have taught me what that’s like – the pain is searing.  Rick Santorum I can live with.  Gerry Cardinale I can live with, too.  But Chris Christie’s rejection?  That hurts.

Governor, rest assured that even though I came of political age in an era where political adversaries could be friends – and if you’re game, we’ll continue that good relationship – Garden State Equality and I will continue to fight you on marriage equality with every bone in our bodies.  You would expect no less.

For us, this is not about politics.  This is about our fundamental American right to conduct our lives with a full life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Equality. 

And until we achieve it, we will fight with our every last breath.  And we will win, so help me God.

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NJ activists assembling at dawn for historic marriage vote

New Jersey gay rights activists planned to gather on Feb. 16 “at the break of dawn” to show their enthusiasm for a vote later in the day on the state’s marriage equality bill.

Garden State Equality, the statewide LGBT civil rights group, was organizing the presence in Trenton, encouraging participants to wear their “Equality-The American Dream” T-shirts to the statehouse.

Before leaving home, marriage equality supporters were being urged to e-mail their representatives to encourage support for the bill, set for a floor vote at 1 p.m. EST.

After the vote, Garden State Equality was planning a gathering at the Trenton Marriott ballroom. “For what we hope will be a huge celebration,” said GSE’s Steven Goldstein.

The marriage bill already has passed in the state Senate with a 24 to 16 vote. In 2010, a similar bill was defeated in the Senate by a 14 to 20 vote.

“When an issue sees a 70 percent increase in support in just two years, that proves the world isn’t changing – it proves the world has changed,” said Goldstein.

The House voted for marriage equality two years ago and is expected to do so again on Feb. 16.

However, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to veto the measure. The Republican has said that the voters should decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage, a departure from Democratic governors in Washington and Maryland this year.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed her state’s marriage equality bill earlier this week, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he is eager for a bill to reach his desk.

A recent poll in New Jersey found that 54 percent of voters support legalizing same-sex marriage. The same poll found that 53 percent of voters also think they should cast ballots on the issue.

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Chris Christie nominates out gay African-American for New Jersey Supreme Court

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today nominated an openly gay African-American Republican mayor to serve as a justice on the state’s Supreme Court.

The head of the state’s LGBT advocacy group was stunned when the governor’s office called to inform him about the nomination.

“As I told the governor right then and there, you could have picked me up off the floor,” said Steve Goldstein, CEO of Garden State Equality.

Bruce Harris, the nominee, was elected mayor of Chatham Borough in November. The 60-year-old Harris graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, and with honors from Boston University Graduate School of Management before earning a law degree from Yale.

Before his election as mayor of Chatham, Harris worked for area law firms.

Despite his reputation as a firebrand conservative, Christie has good relations with Garden State Equality, Goldstein told Ner Jersey’s Star Ledger.

He said that although Christie has made it clear he opposes same-sex marriage, the governor also said  “he wanted his administration to have a good working relationship with Garden State Equality.”

“That has been the case every step of the way,” Goldstein told the paper. “Since Gov. Christie took office, his administration has treated us with warmth and responsiveness. Yes is yes, no is no, and we’ll get back to you means they get back to you faster than you thought, usually with invaluable help.”

Christie also nominated Phil Kwon, who would become the first Asian-American to sit on the state Supreme Court.

“I am honored to nominate these two gentlemen,” Christie said at a Statehouse news conference. “I trust the Senate will take into account their extraordinary backgrounds and experience and will give them swift hearings.”

N.J. marriage hearing set

The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 11 a.m. (EST) on Jan. 24 on the newly introduced marriage equality bill.

The hearing will take place at the State House in Trenton.

Civil rights advocates with Garden State Equality are encouraging people to turn out in “EQUALITY The American Dream” T-shirts.

GSE also is seeking people to testify on behalf of the bill.

A call for witnesses went out late Jan. 17, stating, “We are compiling witnesses to testify for marriage equality. We are specifically seeking: Civil union couples who have faced difficulties with the civil union law.
Civil union couples who want to talk about what the deprivation of marriage equality means to them.
Clergy.
LGBT Youth.
Parents or other loved ones of LGBT youth.
Supporters of marriage equality, straight or LGBT.”

The call for participation ends, “The world’s greatest members, for never giving up. GAME ON AGAIN!”

That’s a reference to the failed campaign to enact a marriage equality bill in 2008-09. Civil rights advocates were pushing to pass the bill before Jan. 19, 2009, when Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an opponent of equality was set to take office.

Christie still opposes the legislation, but has not indicated whether he will encourage Republican lawmakers to vote as they want or as the party leader wants.

The National Organization for Marriage has pledged at least $500,000 to a campaign to block the marriage equality push in the state.

N.J. group cuts donations to parties

Garden State Equality, the New Jersey LGBT group that came close to securing equal marriage rights in 2009, recently announced that it would cease donations to political parties.

The organization’s board encouraged its members to support individual candidates and not donate to parties.

“No political party has a record good enough on LGBT civil rights that it can rightfully claim to be entitled to our money on a party-wide basis,” said Garden State chair Steven Goldstein. “No longer will we let any political party take our money and volunteers with one hand, and slap us in the face with the other when we seek full equality.”

Gay couples angry but not surprised about NJ vote

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Gays in New Jersey say they’re angrier than they thought they would be after the state Senate’s rejection of a bill to legalize gay marriage.

Thursday’s 20-14 vote against the measure ended any chance of getting a same-sex marriage bill approved in the state anytime soon. Gov.-elect Chris Christie, who opposes gay marriage, takes office Jan. 19.

The bill’s defeat had been expected.

Nevertheless, Marty Finkle of South Orange says he’s angry that five senators did not vote and that several Democrats voted “no.”

He and others say they won’t stop pushing for gay marriage, though.

The gay rights group Garden State Equality says its intends to file a lawsuit on the issue, hoping to get the state’s courts to legalize gay nuptials.