The atmosphere at last night’s Garden State Equality rally in Montclair was so much friendlier than the recent GSE foray into Secaucus where the mayor, councilmen and residents were often hostile. Here in Bnai Keshet Synagogue in the land of Senator Nia Gill and Assenblywoman Sheila Oliver it was more like preaching to the choir. Preachers included Assembly Speaker Oliver, Senator Teresa Ruiz of Newark, GSE President Steve Goldstein, and friends of GSE. The choir included a group of some 200 marriage equality enthusiasts, including a large contingent of kids and some teenagers wise beyond their age.
Speaker Oliver talked about the need for resilience on the part of GSE members saying it’s just a matter of time for this human rights, civil rights, equality issue. In terms of why the marriage equality bill did not pass the legislature, she spoke of how the matter became framed in the context of religion and how it can be difficult for politicians to vote their gut. She spoke of other concerns she wants to address: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ENDA, and school bullying. Perhaps alluding to looming battles, she said it is important for Democrats “to define ourselves and not allow others to define us.”
Senator Ruiz gave a moving, emotional speech of support drawing on personal experience with a relative. Celebrity stars of GSE commercials spoke passionately as did members of the audience.
After the speeches we took to the streets bearing candles and headed to the GSE office for the traditional pizza – a nice ending for a nice day.
The rallies continue tonight (Friday) in Asbury Park and Monday in Trenton where there are two more opportunities to remind the public that New Jersey’s separate, unequal and failed civil union law should should be repealed and a new law enacted that provides true marriage equality. It is important to keep this message in people’s minds and hearts as even the courts, which will have to respond to GSE’s planned litigation, have been known to listen to the public’s pulse.