WEST ORANGE, NJ—The past year has seen dramatic advancements in the rights of the LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, most notably the legalization of same-sex marriage in nineteen states including New Jersey. Garden State Equality, located in Montclair, has been one of the organizations in the national forefront not only in the fight for marriage equality, but in the establishment of the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, the toughest anti-bullying law in the country. The law is not limited to LGBT youth, but all youth in elementary, middle, high school and college.
June is officially LGBT Pride month and several events have been taking place all over New Jersey, including North Jersey Pride, which was celebrated from June 2-8. On Saturday, June 21, Garden State Equality will hold its Fifth Annual Equality Walk beginning at 4:00 pm in Montclair's Erie Park, located at the corner of Walnut Street and Montclair Avenue. Over 120 people have registered, not including family members and friends,says GSE Interim Executive Director John Mikytuck.
GSE worked tirelessly as one of the driving forces behind the legalization of same sex marriage in New Jersey, and their petition was approved by Judge Mary Jacobson in October, 2013. As of April 21, over 3000 same sex couples have been married nationally, the Department of Health reports. Mikytuck says that many of the couples have been together for a long time and have been ecstatic to finally have the right to get married. GSE was recognized for their efforts at the North Jersey Pride Festival held on June 8.
GSE has set several goals, many of which are cultivated in this year’s Equality Walk themes. One goal is to continue to help all young people through the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. They also are committed to providing shelter for LGBT homeless youth, who comprise 40% of all homeless youth in the United States. GSE has already begun to take steps to help these children, all under the age of 18, through their support for the National Campaign for Youth Shelters, with a goal of providing over 22,000 beds in homeless shelters for youth.
Another goal for this year’s Equality Walk is to assist LGBT seniors in receiving the same benefits that heterosexual couples have received for so long. GSE also plans to continue providing information on the diversity of the LGBT community.
The community is invited to participate in the Equality Walk on June 21. There is still time to register. Visit the Garden State Equality website for more information: www.gardenstateequality.org.