Controversy again struck during last night’s Jersey City Board of Education meeting, this time when a resident questioned why the school district felt it was necessary to acknowledge LGBTQ pride month in June.
Jersey City resident Adela Rohena walked up to the mic to first say that she didn’t want her comments to be construed or labelled homophobic.
However, that didn’t stop her remarks from rubbing the board the wrong way, as she proceeded to question the board why the district celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month in June when, for example, the board doesn’t celebrate teachers and firefighters for one month.
Even after her five minutes were up, Rohena wouldn’t relent and she created a stir when she wondered aloud that Pride Month is celebrated in the schools for 30 days: “They gonna dance? What they gonna teach the kids of the public schools?,” she asked.
This comment caused BOE Trustee Gerald Lyons, who is gay, to walk off the stage as she spoke.
“Where are you going my friend?,” Rohena asked Lyons at that moment.
When she finished, which completed the public portion of the special meeting prior to breaking for an executive session, the board responded to a number of the remarks made by the audience.
Predictably, Lyons was aghast at Rohena’s comments, but also not surprised because of the variety of denigrating comments directed towards different demographics in the country stemming from President Donald Trump (R), a message he conveyed without using his name.
“Recently, it is my opinion, that the thin skin that covers a lot of prejudice has been peeled away, and people have felt now they have the opportunity to say whatever they want about whatever group of people,” began Lyons.
“When you come out and you say that gays need an extra month so that they can dance, that’s offensive. As the only openly gay member on this board, possibly the only gay member, I find it very offensive that you would think that gays want a month so that we can come out and dance,” Lyons said as audience members cheered and clapped.
He went on to note that he was 14 years old when he came out as gay, and now at 68 years old, he’s never been more fearful of what’s happening to gay rights today.
Lyons was joined by several of his board’s colleagues who said that Rohena’s comments were reprehensible.
“The comments made tonight were extremely offensive, and I agree with Gerry, I hope that one day we are in a position where people aren’t saying things that are anti-Semitic, anti-homophobic and anti-Islamic and I hope we can move past that,” added Trustee Mussab Ali.
Trustee Marilyn Roman weighed in as well.
“I do not want to dignify what that woman said. But I think there’s got to be more room in this country for our caring about one another and minding our own business about what a person does and how they live their life, as long as what they do is moral and doesn’t involve any criminal activity in their plans. I don’t even think it’s any of our business.”
Despite receiving a tongue lashing for her comments, Rohena, also the Republican candidate for county sheriff, wouldn’t apologize. In an interview, she expressed amazement that the board members were angry with her.
“Let me tell you my friend, I voted for every single member of that board, so I expect Mr. Lyons not to get mad with me because it’s my First Amendment right to express my opinion,” she told HCV.
“I didn’t curse at them. Why do they get mad at me? What is the message [by celebrating Pride Month] they are trying to bring to the Jersey City Public Schools. That’s my question,” she doubled down.