EXCLUSIVE: Leadership Change at Garden State Equality

Today, Garden State Equality announced that after 8½ years at the helm, Steven Goldstein will be moving on to another opportunity. Earlier today, I sat down with Steven and his successor, Troy Stevenson, for an exclusive interview to discuss the status of LGBT activities in New Jersey.

Thank you to New Jersey Citizen Action, in whose Highland Park facility this interview was recorded.

Disclosure: I am a member of, and proud contributor to, Garden State Equality

Below the fold: Press Releases from Garden State Equality and Rutgers-Newark

Garden State Equality Press Release

Steven Goldstein, founder of Garden State Equality, to become Associate Chancellor at Rutgers-Newark;

In a seamless transition, his successor as Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality will be his longtime deputy, Troy Stevenson

Steven Goldstein, who has served as Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality from the time he founded the organization in July 2004, has been named Associate Chancellor for External Relations at Rutgers-Newark, where his portfolio will include government relations and communications.  Steven will start his new position on Wednesday, January 23, 2013.  His last day as Garden State Equality’s leader will be on Sunday, January 20, 2013, the day of the organization’s Inauguration Celebration Brunch in West Orange.

Succeeding Steven at Garden State Equality will be Troy Stevenson, who served three years on staff as the organization’s Managing Director until he joined the 2012 Obama campaign in Pennsylvania.   Tonight, Garden State Equality’s Board of Directors ratified the selection of Troy, whom Steven groomed to be his successor, as the organization’s new Chair and CEO.   At the request of the Board, Goldstein will assume the title Founder and Chair Emeritus.

In a letter he just emailed to the 124,850 members of Garden State Equality, Goldstein emphasized the seamless transition.   “This is hardly the end of an era,” Goldstein wrote.  “Working by my side, Troy is the person I someday wanted to take my place, which you bet he can.  So many of you know and love him.  He is an extraordinary field operative, political talent and all-around human being.”

Troy’s first day as Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality will be Monday, January 21.  “Steven has been a mentor to me and to thousands of others.  He has not only founded an organization that has led the way for some of the most important civil rights laws of our time, but he has also inspired a new generation to get involved and change the world.  I will work night and day to continue his legacy seamlessly.   With his same determination, I promise you this:   We will win marriage equality through an override in 2013.”

Troy served on the field staff of President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.  In 2012, he served in a senior staff role in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.  In 2009, immediately before joining Garden State Equality, he worked on the Maine’s campaign for marriage equality.   During Troy’s time as Field Director, then Managing Director, at Garden State Equality, the organization more than doubled the size of its membership, which had been 60,000 when Troy joined the staff.  He has led several Garden State Equality grassroots campaigns, including that which led to the overwhelming passage and enactment of the nation’s strongest anti-school bullying law in 2011.  

A native of Oklahoma City, Troy, 36, received his B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and his LL.M. from the University of Westminster in London.  During his time in New Jersey, Troy has worked not only at Garden State Equality, but also served as Chair of Essex County’s LGBT Advisory Board, giving him important managerial experience.

As Steven explained, “No other opportunity could have pulled me away from the work I love so much.  I have always wanted to enter academia.   Being named Associate Chancellor for both communications and government relations, and to continue to teaching a course at the law school – and to do all that on a campus whose administration, faculty and students I deeply admire – is thrilling.  And equally thrilling is the chance for me to pass the torch at Garden State Equality to my friend Troy Stevenson.  He is one of the best field operatives anywhere in America, and that is crucial to our winning marriage equality.”

During Steven’s eight-and-a-half years as Garden State Equality’s leader, New Jersey has enacted 213 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels.  Visit www.gardenstateequality.org/about/laws for the complete list of laws.   They include America’s toughest law against school bullying, and landmark laws to ban discrimination for the entire LGBT community, counter hate crimes, provide equality for the transgender community, and institute LGBT paid family leave.  In 2012, notwithstanding fierce opposition from the Governor, New Jersey passed a marriage equality bill.  In 2008, the Academy Award® for Best Short Documentary went to Freeheld, a film chronicling Garden State Equality’s grassroots advocacy.

Steven Goldstein’s letter to Garden State Equality’s membership is immediately below.

Then follows Rutgers-Newark’s press release, including statements from leading public figures in New Jersey.

Dear Garden State Equality members:

One of the great joys of my career, along with founding Garden State Equality in 2004 and leading it since, has been teaching this semester at Rutgers Law School in Newark.  I have always loved academia.  As most of you know, I even returned to school in mid-career to study to be a rabbi, a lifelong aspiration from which I’ve been on leave to serve as Garden State Equality’s Chair and CEO.  I’ll resume my rabbinic studies for certain.  But now I have the chance work at a university full-time, as Rutgers-Newark has asked me to become Associate Chancellor for External Relations.  I have accepted the offer.  My last day as Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality will be Sunday, January 20th, our Inauguration Celebration Brunch.

My portfolio at Rutgers-Newark will include government relations and communications.   I will also continue to teach a course at Rutgers-Newark Law School.  No other opportunity could have pulled me away from the work I love so much.  There’s a personal bonus, too.  My partner Daniel is starting his own business, and now I’d like to help him pursue his dream just as he has supported me all these years at Garden State Equality.  Daniel, I love you.

Our transition at Garden State Equality will be seamless.   My successor, elected by our Board of Directors in a conference call moments ago in accordance with our bylaws, comes from inside our organization.   He’s a superb leader whom so many of you know and love, and I’ll tell you more in a moment.  

But as he and I would attest, the real leaders of Garden State Equality are you.   We have the most engaged Board and volunteers imaginable – thousands of grassroots leaders inspired by one another who show up on short notice, at our offices, at the State House and everywhere else we do direct action.   Garden State Equality’s grassroots power has been so impressive – thanks to you – it was chronicled by a film that won an Academy Award® for Best Short Documentary, Freeheld.  

You truly deserve the best.   So I’m overjoyed that Garden State Equality’s Board has unanimously selected Troy Stevenson to be the new Chair and CEO of Garden State Equality effective Monday, January 21st.   Troy served as our Managing Director, my deputy, until he became a field director for the 2012 Obama campaign in Pennsylvania, while continuing to serve on our Board to this day.  He is an extraordinary field operative, political talent and all-around human being.  Working by my side, he is the person I someday wanted to take my place, which you bet he can.  This is hardly the end of an era.  

In fact, Garden State Equality’s Board has graciously asked me to assume the title Founder and Honorary Chair, which will be an ex officio position on the Board and its executive committee.  I’m incredibly moved.

And don’t forget the public officials who, like me, will always be part of the Garden State Equality family.  Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald – and their incomparable staff – along with our marriage equality hero Senator Raymond Lesniak, are champions not only of our mission, but of Garden State Equality itself.  Love ya, Raymond.   Loretta, of course, is the greatest political and personal friend our movement has had.   Loretta, there are never enough I love yous.    And thanks go to our legislators who have championed our bullied kids, including Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.  Love ya, Valerie.  

My boundless love and gratitude goes to Larry Lustberg and his colleagues at Gibbons, who, with Lambda Legal, are representing Garden State Equality and seven couples in our lawsuit for marriage equality.   At the national level, I am grateful to Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, among others; and at the state level, to New Jersey Citizen Action, the ACLU of New Jersey, BlueWave NJ and the state’s blog of political conscience, Blue Jersey.  I am grateful to our pro-equality clergy of 19 different faiths, denominations and movements, and to our sisters and brothers in the labor movement, especially the CWA-New Jersey for its pathbreaking leadership for LGBT equality.

Most of all, this is a time to thank you.   Because of your passion, Garden State Equality’s achievements have been legion.  

You have built an organization of 124,850 members whose work has led to 213 LGBT civil rights laws at the state, county and local levels since 2004.   Today, New Jersey has the best anti-bullying law in the nation – ranked #1 by a U.S. Department of Education study in December 2011 that compared the laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.   Every week, Garden State Equality receives phone calls from parents or students telling us how the law has improved their lives, and saved some.  

The thanks go to you.

Today, New Jersey is one of only three states in the entire country with a paid family leave law that encompasses same-sex couples – mandating that companies provide paid leave to allow employees to care for their same-sex partners in times of sickness.  

The thanks go to you.

Today, New Jersey is a beacon to America for transgender civil rights.  Our transgender anti-discrimination law passed by a combined legislative margin of 102 to 8.  Our transgender anti-hate crimes law passed both houses by 100 to 10.  And our transgender inclusive anti-bullying law passed both houses 103 to 1.  

The thanks go to you.

And today, New Jersey is a model for how to pass a marriage equality bill notwithstanding a Governor strongly opposed.  

We triumphed in both houses of the legislature notwithstanding obstacles with which no other state has had to contend.  We didn’t have a Governor twisting arms on our behalf.   We had a world-renowned Governor, in the country’s most institutionally powerful governorship, twisting arms against us right up until the final moments.  But 24 Senators voted yes for marriage equality in February 2012 – a 70 percent increase in support over the 14 votes we got in 2010.  

The key to overriding the Governor’s veto is staying focused.  2013, with Governor Christie at the top of the ticket and his unique ability to raise unspeakable amounts of money from across the country, would be the worst possible time to agree to a referendum.  A loss could cost us seats in the legislature.  It would also send a terrible signal to the courts, through which our case is making its way.  A referendum loss could set our work back a generation.   Remember, few thought we could pass a marriage equality bill in the first place under Governor Christie, let alone get the votes we did.   But you never gave up or gave in.  You confounded every expectation of what you could persuade the legislature to do.

So from the hills of Maplewood to the boardwalks of Ocean Grove to the malls of Cherry Hill, let the words resound again:  We shall override!  

And once we do, our organization will never have to ask, what’s next?   It’s clear today:  Our youth.

You have built a youth program that guarantees our organization’s future – an entire state’s future of fairness.  Our Garden State Equality Youth Caucus has empowered adolescents and teens from across New Jersey, many of them survivors of bullying and other hate, to become a lifeline to a better world for themselves and us all.  

Our program to counter school-related bullying is geared to all youth, LGBT and not.  What alternative is there?  A child is a child.  Garden State Equality may be the country’s first civil rights organization that changed its mission from an exclusive focus on LGBT equality to helping non-LGBT people as well.

Vision matters, and each of you, dear members, has it.   In the earlier days of our organization, a few leaders in our own national movement would wonder:  Why, Garden State Equality, must you rock the boat for marriage?   You have everything but marriage in name.

But New Jersey has lived what a different and stigmatizing name brings about – the refusal of too many hospitals, employers, schools and even loved ones to recognize any alternative label as equal to marriage.   Long before others across the country understood or wanted to highlight the difference between civil unions and marriage, Garden State Equality was, and remains, relentless in bringing to public light the inequality brought about by laws that dehumanize through a lesser label.  

Your vigilance has played a role in producing marriage equality already.  In cases and legislation that have already led to marriage equality in other states – and will in ours – courts and legislators have specifically cited the New Jersey experience with civil unions.  You have helped to change the lives not only of your fellow New Jerseyans, but also of countless others across the country.

You did it all, each and every one of you.   Because of your inspirational devotion of time and energy, Garden State Equality has never had to choose between the inside track of strategic lobbying and the outside track of action on the streets.  Our organization has pursued both tracks with gusto.   That, more than anything else, has been the key to Garden State Equality’s success.

213 LGBT civil rights laws in Garden State Equality’s first eight years, and the best is yet to come.  The organization will soar higher with me as a member than it ever reached with me as its leader.  That is what the founder of any organization must want, and what this founder truly wants.

I’ll see many of you at our Inauguration Celebration Brunch on Sunday, January 20th and at other Garden State Equality events, no doubt, for years to come.  This is no farewell.  You’re family.



Rutgers-Newark Press Release


Helen Paxton



Fax 973.353.1050



Goldstein’s portfolio to include government relations and communications

Newark, NJ – Steven Goldstein, the founder and CEO of Garden State Equality, has been named Associate Chancellor for External Relations at Rutgers University, Newark, Interim Chancellor Philip L. Yeagle announced today.  The appointment is effective January 23, 2013; Goldstein’s last day leading Garden State Equality will be January 20, 2013.

Goldstein is a prominent New Jersey leader who has held senior positions in government, the media and civil rights.  At Rutgers-Newark, his portfolio will include government relations, building strong relations with the communities of Rutgers-Newark, and communications for the campus.

“This is an exciting moment for the Rutgers-Newark community,” Dr. Yeagle said.  “Steven has long been among New Jersey’s most compelling voices and steadfast leaders for the public interest.   His political savvy and legendary tenacity has made him known in Trenton and across the state for making big things happen.”

Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker said:  “Steven Goldstein is an inspired choice to be an Associate Chancellor at Rutgers-Newark.   He is a transformational leader who has shaped one of the most powerful civil rights movements of our time, producing some of the most important civil rights laws of our time.   He has brought thousands into the political process and helped to empower their dreams of a better world.  It’s been a joy to work with him at Garden State Equality and it will be an joy to work with him in our city.”

“Working at Rutgers-Newark, and especially for Interim Chancellor Yeagle, will be a dream come true,” Steven Goldstein said.  “Last semester, I had the honor of teaching at Rutgers School of Law-Newark and getting to know administrators, faculty and students – they’re extraordinary.  I’m thrilled to join one of the nation’s finest urban research universities, and to help it partner with its great home city in every way it can.”

Before founding Garden State Equality in July 2004, Goldstein, 50, worked in senior positions as a television producer and on Capitol Hill.   He has been a television news producer who has won ten regional Emmy Awards, and went on to serve as a lawyer for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and later as communications director for U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg.  

As Garden State Equality’s founder and leader, Goldstein built one of the country’s best-known statewide civil rights organizations.   On Garden State Equality’s watch, New Jersey has enacted some of the state’s most path-breaking civil rights laws to advance equality not only for the LGBT community, but for others facing discrimination as well, including all students vulnerable to bullying in schools.

Each year over the past several years, PolitickerNJ.com has ranked Goldstein as one of the most powerful people in New Jersey politics.  New Jersey Monthly ranked him as one of the state’s 101 most powerful people in all walks of life.  The Harvard Law and Policy Review published an academic treatise on Goldstein’s work at Garden State Equality, citing his “vision, energy and determination” in building “a model organization.”  And in 2008, the Academy Award® for Best Short Documentary went to Freeheld, a film chronicling Garden State Equality’s grassroots advocacy.

Steven Goldstein is a summa cum laude graduate of Brandeis University, holds master’s degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.  He lives in Teaneck with his partner of 20 years, Daniel Gross.


Rutgers-Newark is home to the Newark College of Arts and Sciences, University College, the Graduate School-Newark, Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, the School of Law-Newark, the College of Nursing, the School of Criminal Justice, the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and extensive research and outreach centers, including the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, the Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience, and the Institute of Jazz Studies. Approximately 12,000 students are currently enrolled in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered at the 38-acre campus in Newark, N.J.

For more information please visit www.newark.rutgers.edu.

Comment (1)

  1. Jeff Gardner

    Steven – New Jersey owes a huge debt of gratitude for your tireless and effective leadership. Thank you!


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