CALDWELL, NJ — Mayor John Kelley and members of the Caldwell borough council unanimously passed a resolution during Tuesday’s meeting designating June as “LGBTQ Pride Month” within the borough.
Kelley read an article by Jami Glatter documenting the history of oppression by the government and private sector in relation to the LGBTQ+ community and how these discriminatory practices culminated in what is now known as the Stonewall Riots that took place in Greenwich Village in June of 1969.
“The Borough of Caldwell is committed to providing a safe place for all of the residents and visitors to our community,” said Kelley. “During Pride Month, the LGBTQ resolution introduced is intended to make that message loud and clear. Everyone is welcome to our borough.”
Councilman Jonathan Lace spoke about various moments in United States history when the question of whether all Americans “equal before the law” has been vigorously debated—“whether it be in the context of native Americans and their claims to land, women and their fight for suffrage, or the descendants of former African-American slaves and their struggle for civil rights,” he said.
“At every one of those moments, there have been those who have opposed them,” said Lace. “Some have done so based on deeply held beliefs; but all too often, many have done so by demonizing and dehumanizing their fellow citizens.”
Lace continued that for most of American history, LGBTQ persons and their relationships “have been viewed as criminal due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity,” but that science, reason and personal experience have demonstrated otherwise.
“Everyone agrees that these matters should be private, but when they are made the basis for public discrimination, government has a role to play in building a more perfect union,” said Lace. “The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 in New York City was the catalyst for what has become known as Pride Month, a time for recognizing and celebrating the dignity and equality of all persons under the law.
“This resolution does not speak to any philosophical or religious perspectives. Instead, for the first time, it recognizes historical injustices and lets our LGBTQ residents and neighbors know that we know that they have an equal claim on the promise of America, and that they are always welcome here in Caldwell.”
Councilwoman Christine Schmidt also expressed pride in the borough for passing this resolution, stating that it is a “reminder that Caldwell is making a commitment to inclusivity and the strength that diversity brings to a community.”
“This is not a question of approving or disapproving or even tolerating; we, as a society, have moved beyond that,” said Schmidt. “Pride Month pays tribute to all the people who have died and the many who will die just because of who they are.”
Schmidt added that although proclamations and legislations have been adopted in support of the LGBTQ+ across the country on the national, state and municipal levels, the council still felt it was important to show its support on a municipal level in the Borough of Caldwell. She said that the council felt passing this resolution would affirm “the respect of and the human dignity of LGBTQ people living and working in the community” and could maybe even save a life.
“Many among us have heard far too many anti-LGBTQ slurs in our schools and in this community,” she said. “Far too many times, we’ve wondered how hard it would be for a young person to find acceptance or go so far as to come out in Caldwell. These situations have terrible mental health consequences including suicide. It is time we take a stand in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who live, work and attend school here.”
Caldwell resident Maureen McNish stood in support of the resolution, speaking about her son, Matthew, who graduated James Caldwell High School in 2009 and “had a tough time in high school because of his sexual orientation.”
“Too many children are left out due to their sexual orientation,” she said.
Dr. Stephanie Sitnick, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Caldwell University, also attended the meeting along with a handful of students to support the resolution. She said that “federal laws do not ban discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity,” but that “not feeling safe in public is not a private matter.”
“Fifty-two percent of the LGBTQ population live in states that do not prohibit discrimination of sexual orientation or gender identity…only 21 states have statutes that protect against this,” said Sitnick. “Six states have state education laws that expressly forbid teachers from discussing gay and transgender issues in a positive light if at all, and some laws even require that the teachers portray LBBTQ people in a negative and inaccurate fashion. Given this information, it is not surprising that LBGTQ students do not feel safe at school, that 75 percent of LBGTQ students report being verbally harassed.”