Hoboken 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco said the Mile Square City needs to greatly improve their equality rights at an LGBTQ event he hosted last night, a claim Mayor Dawn Zimmer was quick to refute.
The NJ LGBT Democratic Caucus fundraiser featured Franklin Township Board of Education Ed Potosnak, who explained the scenario he encountered after praising the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage.
During his remarks, DeFusco said there was a “shadow campaign” going on in 2015 council race where he was being attacked for his sexual preference, but that was overcome by talking about real issues within the city.
He later was critical of Mayor Dawn Zimmer for the city scoring a 51 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, stating several initiatives that need to happen to improve that.
“I think we have a lot of things that we have to do to raise that score: we need a dedicated representative on the police force, we need additional rights and services for LGBT employees in City Hall,” the councilman exclaimed.
“We need to make sure we’re not just accepted in practice, [but] that the city is going to step up and gonna say ‘we have your back.’ And here’s the thing: it’s easy to say that, ‘oh yea, we’re progressive and we’re there’ when a situation happens, but it’s a lot more dedicated and complex to say ‘we’re gonna do that now, we’re gonna put our foot down.'”
Speaking one-on-one with Hudson County View, DeFusco weighed in on the President Donald Trump administration revoking transgender bathroom rules, once again stating that Hoboken is behind the times.
“Here in Hoboken City Hall, we have a long day to update our infrastructure, let alone kind of open up the facilities to folks in a more modern way,” DeFusco stated.
“Whether Mayor Zimmer is willing to have that conversation, whether she’s willing to work with me as I asked her to – to expand the city’s equality rights [so] that we can score higher on the Human Rights organization’s chart next year, is still TBD.”
Responding to the criticisms, Zimmer said in a statement that she has always been supportive of the LGBT community and she plans in following in Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s footsteps regarding gender neutral bathrooms in city buildings.
“Throughout my career and in my personal life, I have always been committed to LGBT equality and civil rights and I always will be,” she said.
“I saw that Mayor Fulop issued an executive order regarding gender neutral bathrooms, and I thought it was an excellent idea and will be doing the same in Hoboken.”
During Zimmer’s tenure as mayor, Hoboken granted marriage licenses to same sex couples and requires annual anti-discrimination training for all city employees.
A city spokesman further stated that the city’s low HRC score was the result of not providing updated information regarding non-discrimination policies, municipal services and leadership positions.