I would like to think we live in a country where I would not need to write this, but in an effort to bring clarity to the space between the vagueness of "there is still work to be done" and the naiveté of "we can close shop now", I want to shine light on what our focus needs to be as a community. I recently accepted the position as Executive Director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey's largest LGBT organization. Like many state-wide equality organizations, the bulk of the focus over the early years was centered around marriage equality, and with support and funding, Garden State Equality was able to pass hundreds of laws that made New Jersey a safer, more equal place for LGBT people. This work is applauded, and now people all over the country are wondering what an equality organization looks like in a post-marriage equality space. I want them to find out, right here in New Jersey.
The struggles of LGBT individuals continue every day, for recognition under the law or acceptance in their community. Let no one be under the impression that the struggle for true equality has ended. Let us not forget: just because a law is passed, it doesn't mean that everyone is treated equally. We also know that just because a law exists, it is not always enforced. While we have marriage equality on a national level, we are far from free people in states across this country.
In states like North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee, we have seen intolerance receive the official endorsement of elected officials. Although New Jersey is not one of those states, there is no guarantee that LGBT rights can not or will not be taken away in the future. We now have elected officials that support our community because organizations like Garden State Equality have consistently voiced our concerns. If we do not remain vocal in the post-marriage equality era, we will not be heard, and, in fact, risk being silenced through our own complacency. Insidious silencing, indeed, is the true danger. With silence, whispers become heard, and the voice of oppression will inevitably dominate.
It comes down to establishing a new set of values for the LGBT community.
We still very much face discrimination. And we must remember that discrimination against any one member of the LGBT community is discrimination against all members of the LGBT community. Discrimination against the LGBT community is discrimination against the wider community in which we live. Garden State Equality intends to lead a collective voice. We will not be silent. And we will assure all voices are heard.
The new set of LGBT values will embody collective community values. We should forge coalitions and partnerships with all who encounter discrimination in any form. It's about working for and with each other. Together, we will create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding that benefits everyone, regardless of age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
Intolerance throughout this country still exists. The divisive nature of this presidential election has made that loud and clear. This intolerance, spewed through the comments and actions of certain presidential candidates, has cultivated an atmosphere where hatred is accepted and even encouraged. This creates devastating ripple effects for all groups subject to ridicule, whether they are our brothers and sisters in the LGBT, Muslim, or Mexican communities.
It's time the LGBT community begins to participate in a broader social justice movement. As a dynamic and vibrant community, we must ensure that every person has the chance to lead their fullest lives regardless of who they love or how they express their gender. We need to work side by side with organizations that represent our broader identities in terms of race, religion and ethnicity. We need to think, act, and speak together as a broader community strong, loud, and unified against discrimination.
Moving forward, Garden State Equality will focus on forging a strong collaboration among state wide social justice advocacy groups that represent the diversity of New Jersey. Through this collaborative effort, New Jersey will achieve true equality and justice, not just for the LGBT community, but also for all those who continue to have their rights denied. I am hopeful that this renewed focus will serve as a national model in this new era and beyond.