NJEA Does the Right Thing on ME

As a teacher, a union member, and a supporter of the institution of marriage (over 25 years myself), I was very proud yesterday to see that the NJEA is stepping up and doing the right thing:

Citing its long history of support of equal rights under the law, the New Jersey Education Association today testified in support for S-1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act.

“The time for passage of this legislation is at hand,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian.  “This is the ultimate teachable moment, because if we truly believe that all students should be treated equally, we must demonstrate through our actions that we will treat all adults equally.

Keshishian said New Jersey’s current civil union law falls short of providing that protection, as civil union partners continue to face discrimination in myriad settings that S-1 would resolve.

“It is time for civil rights to replace civil unions in New Jersey,” Keshishian said.


Two members of NJEA’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee also testified in support of S-1.

“As a history teacher, I educate my students about the long march for civil rights by groups in the United States who have faced prejudice and discrimination on the basis of who they are as human beings,” said Sean DiGiovanna of Watchung Hills. “I teach them about the case of Plessy v. Ferguson – how once the courts supported the concept of ‘separate, but equal’ and how that idea was later categorically overturned in Brown v. Board of Education.  The civil union statute creates a class of relationships that are separate and unequal.”

“As my partner and I grow older and health concerns become more dominant, we still face concerns and risk as we continue as civil union partners,” said Carol Watchler, a retired teacher from Roosevelt and a partner in a same-sex relationship for 39 years.

Sean posted his full testimony here; it’s well worth reading. God bless you and Alex, Sean.

There are many reasons why this was a great move by the NJEA: first and foremost, because it is the right thing to do. NJEA has also sent a message to its GLBT members that the union has their backs.

Hopefully, this will also go a long way toward burying the hatchet between the teachers union and the GLBT lobby. The animosity between the two has been documented and discussed here at Blue Jersey. I thought that was healthy, but hopefully, we can move on to the next chapter.

Because both ME supporters and teachers need each other right now; it turns out some of the folks who are vehemently opposed to ME are the same folks who are pushing unaccountable charter schools:

Go to 2:47 in the clip to watch Aughtney Khan, the co-counder of Regis Academy and wife of Amir Khan, celebrate the defeat of ME the first time around in 2010. Amir himself follows immediately, smirking as he says it “feels great” to watch ME go down in defeat.

These people now run a school paid for with your tax dollars, over the objections of the people of Cherry Hill and Voorhees, who had no say in the matter (gosh, do you think there are any GLBT folks living in those towns?). They sit next to Chris Christie in public appearances, even as the governor denies knowing them.

I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable, and I hope yesterday was the first step in coming together to stop it once and for all.

Comments (30)

  1. Momotombo

    I agree completely.  I hope that we can begin to mend some of the fences which have allowed the Governor to take advantage of a divide and conquer approach to policy making.  We will be much stronger together

  2. Jay Lassiter
  3. Progressif

    Why get involved in a divisive issue that has nothing to do with their members’ welfare? Less than half of Americans support gay marriage. I happen to, but why does the NJEA have to weigh in? Whether Jazzman thinks they are right or wrong, they certainly don’t speak for 100 percent of their members when they get tangled in controversial issues. One more reason the NJEA brand is freefalling under Keshishian. Dumb and dumber.  

  4. Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality chair

    It was never a comfortable thing for Garden State Equality to be at odds with the NJEA because of the NJEA’s refusal, until yesterday, to endorse marriage equality.  That is now over.  A new era begins.  I’m a firm believer in embracing support whenever it comes.  As I have written many times with regard to Garden State Equality’s embrace of Steve Sweeney, who has done an amazing job on S.1 and really does get too little credit for it here – that’s just my humble opinion, folks – it accomplishes absolutely nothing to hold grudges.  I, for one, would rather hold alliances and hold a bill that passes both houses.  All of us at Garden State Equality warmly embrace the NJEA and look forward once again, as we did years ago, to being two powerful organizations working in concert for equality and justice for all.  Thank you, NJEA, with all our hearts.


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