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Union County Establishes the First County LGBTQ Office in New Jersey

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LGBTQ reorg group photo - see end of article for details Credits: Union County
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Credits: Union County
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The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has launched the new Office of LGBTQ Services. Established as part of Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados' 2018 Moving Union County Forward initiatives, the new LGBTQ office is the first County government office of its kind in the State of New Jersey.

Operating under the new Division of Outreach and Advocacy in the Department of Human Services, Union County's Office of LGBTQ Services will provide a platform for leadership and collaboration to support equality, and serve as a catalyst for advocacy, awareness and action on current and emerging issues that impact the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals.

"This Freeholder Board has a proud record of honoring Union County's diversity," said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. "My commitment to the LGBTQ community, through a progressive directive working alongside my Freeholder colleagues has inspired us to establish the new Office of LGBTQ Services, charging the office with promoting equality, and advancing programs, resources and services to support LGBTQ individuals and their allies through inclusion and unity within our communities."

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The new LGBTQ office will work in collaboration with all County departments and in partnership with non-government ally and advocacy organizations to develop innovative strategies to help address the needs of the LGBTQ community on issues that include housing, education, health, public safety and community engagement.

"The Freeholder Board unwaveringly supports the rights of the LGBTQ community, and I am proud we are taking the progressive movement in leading County governments in the State of New Jersey to protect LGBTQ rights progress and resist discrimination, hate and division," Chairman Granados added.

Through assessment, research, analysis and strategic collaboration, the Office of LGBTQ Services will work to support the LGBTQ community in Union County and beyond. The Office of LGBTQ Services will provide essential support that impacts the quality of life for LGBTQ people and allies through community building and human services.

"On the heels of historic progress for marriage equality by the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the new political reality in Washington has alarmed many," said Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, liaison to the Union County LGBTQ Ad Hoc Committee. "As a Freeholder representing the interests of all Union County residents, I believe it is extremely important to lead our communities toward acceptance of all people and advocate for full equality. The new LGBTQ office will service an important role in LGBTQ civil rights awareness and advocacy."



Several prominent New Jersey organizations that serve the LGBTQ community applaud Union County for establishing the first County government LGBTQ office in the State of New Jersey.

"Garden State Equality is proud to support the State's first County government LGBTQ office. We commend Chairman Granados and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders for establishing the office with a mission to advocate for and support LGBTQ and ally residents of Union County. As New Jersey's largest LGBT organization, we feel such pride to see a growing number of establishments that share a similar mission to our own. GSE is thrilled to now have another ally in the fight for a more equal New Jersey," said Christian Fuscarino, GSE Executive Director.

"As advocates for abused, neglected and abandoned youth removed from home and placed in foster care through no fault of their own, CASA of Union County believes that respect for the inherent dignity, worth and human rights of all individuals is fundamental. In our day-to-day work, we strive to ensure all foster youth find permanency in an environment in which they are safe, affirmed and supported - and this is especially true for those whose rights may be more easily unfulfilled or violated," said Marla Higginbotham, CASA of Union County Executive Director.  "We applaud Chairman Granados for creating the state's first county Office of LGTBQ Services, under the Department of Human Services' Division of Outreach and Advocacy. LGBTQ issues are foster care issues too!"

"Hyacinth AIDS Foundation is thrilled the Freeholder Board of Union County has established an office for LGBTQ residents. Partnerships with local leaders afford us the opportunity to be a voice in the public debate surrounding HIV/AIDS and provide the services necessary to end this horrific epidemic," said Kathy Ahearn-O'Brien, Executive Director of Hyacinth.

"LGBTQ equality saw great progress in the past decade with influence from many of New Jersey's LGBTQ advocacy organizations, including the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling. The unfortunate reality is that 2017 saw significant reversals of LGBTQ rights. These recent developments challenge decades-long civil right protections from Washington, amplifying the urgency for local governments to provide nondiscrimination protections that are supported by the vast majority of Americans," Freeholder Mirabella added. "The new Office of LGBTQ Services will be persistent and determined in our work to counter the atrocious actions of the current administration in Washington with programs and services that help ensure the rights and safety of LGBTQ individuals."

Through the Union County Office of LGBTQ Services, the Freeholder Board will host community engagement events including the first Union County LGBTQ PRIDE flag raising ceremony to launch PRIDE Month and the second annual Union County Family PRIDE CommUNITY Picnic. The Office will also facilitate access to resources, information, and programs on LGBTQ awareness days, a resource directory of LGBTQ-friendly organizations and businesses, as well as a list of federal and state legislative decisions on LGBTQ issues, and other areas of interest to the LGBTQ community and their allies. In February, the Office of LGBTQ Services will host a roundtable for organizations that serve the LGBTQ community to discuss programs, services, issues and priorities for 2018.

LGBTQ reorg group photo: Joining Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados (center left) and Freeholder Vice Chairman Bette Jane Kowalski (left) and coordinator of the new Office of LGBTQ Service Danni Newbury (4th from right) with her wife Christina Wilson at the Union County Reorganization ceremony event on January 7 to support the announcement of the first county government Office of LGBTQ Services were representatives from Garden State Equality, CASA of Union County, Union County College's Gay Straight Alliance, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, Officer Timako Brooks (UC Sheriff's Office LGBTQ liaison), as well as NJ LGBTQ activists Christopher Hillmann, Michael Spadoro and Joseph Forte - all ready to partner with the new LGBTQ office to support the LGBTQ community in Union County.

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