U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) held a roundtable listening session with LGBTQ+ leaders to discuss healthcare access and increased violence against their community at Hudson Pride Center in Jersey City.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“LGBTQ rights are human rights. For 31 years in Congress, I have taken that view,” he declared during brief public remarks before he participated in the private listening session.
As a state legislator, Menendez said he helped pass the first bias crime law to protect against discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation in the 1980s.
“It was one of the first such biased crime laws in the nation. Speaking out against hate in all of its forms is very important. Words have consequences. When we don’t challenge them, they grow.”
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is part of everybody’s fundamental right that includes the LGBTQ community. I know we are in the midst of a challenge,” he continued, lamenting that the Republican leaning Supreme Court recently ruled against LGBTQ+ discrimination protections.
“I think the Respect for Marriage Act which I supported, is incredibly important was critical. I’d love to see the Equality Act, which I have co-sponsored, become the law of the land,” Menendez added.
“Certainly, in this Congress, it will be more difficult as a result of the GOP majority in the House. That would cover a wide range of protections for the LGBTQ community.”
He also noted that he is seeking to increase LGBTQ+ protections in housing laws since he is a senior member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee.
Hudson Pride Center Executive Director Elizabeth Schedl expressed thanks and enthusiasm for Menendez giving them the time of day.
“The importance of holding a roundtable for LGBTQ+ advocates to discuss the alarming increase in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in state legislatures across the country with Senator Menendez cannot be overstated,” explained Schedl.
“We need our political leaders informed and aware of the issues our community faces here in New Jersey as well as around the United States.”
Garden State Equality Director of Advocacy and Organizing Lauren Albrecht added that we consider this discussion a crucial part of our advocacy and our success.”
Another attendee, Essex County Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs Director Reggie Bledsoe, also expressed satisfaction with the meeting.
“As the second office in the State of New Jersey, we pride ourselves on providing safe and welcoming spaces for all residents, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, language, disability, status, gender expression or identity, and sexual orientation,” he said.
In June, the Human Rights Campaign announced a “state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ populations in America due to what they defined as “concerted efforts by Republican elected officials across the country targeting LGBTQ+ Americans.”
“We have seen a rise of hatred and animosity against the LGBTQ+ community through legislation and conservative media across the country. We are feeling the effects even in New Jersey. Congress must act to protect the LGBTQ+ community,” added Zoe Heath, a member of Sussex Pride.
“Not only are the lives of LGBTQ+ people at risk every day because of who they love or their gender identity, but we have hundreds of attacks across the nation trying to eliminate our history,” asserted Laura Bustamante, a New Jersey LGBTQ advocate.
According to Menendez’s office, there have been over 525 state bills introduced that attack the LGBTQ+ community, and over 220 of those specifically target the transgender community.