Deciminyan forgot one ‘Face of Equality” – Juan Melli

Juan MelliThis afternoon, deciminyan posted a photo montage of some of the people who particularly savor the victory of New Jersey’s first day of marriage equality. It was nice to be included among the legislative champions, and the legal warriors. And Steven Goldstein who poured in years of his life. And my friends Marsha and Louise, plaintiffs and newlyweds as of midnight (I’ll post wedding pictures later, I’m still recovering from the party).

But there’s somebody deciminyan left out, somebody he’s never met, Blue Jersey founder Juan Melli, who started this blog 8 years, and 24050 diaries, ago.

Something amazing: The first post Juan, or any of us, wrote about marriage equality was 8 years ago today – Oct. 21, 2005. Diary #119. Here it is:

Same-sex marriage suit filed with NJ Supreme Court
. It was Juan whose Blue Jersey coverage helped the press take notice of Laurel Hester, the police officer dying of cancer whose fight to see her partner receive her benefits helped give birth to this movement. And it was Juan, with our friend Jack Bohrer, who got Blue Jersey’s Think Equal ads made.

Much of what I understand about marriage came from Juan; one of many lessons in life I learned from somebody much younger than I am. Juan “got it” as a newlywed himself in his mid-20s (he and Stephanie have two boys now).

But it was Laurel Hester, who I never met, whose struggle was the gut punch that gave rise to so much that came after and so many of those ‘faces of equality’. Just a snapshot isn’t enough; below the fold, the trailer for the award-winning documentary about Laurel and Stacee: Freeheld.

Comments (8)

  1. Juan Melli

    Thank you Rosi. Very kind of you.

  2. Steven Goldstein

    First, you’re a class act, Rosi.  A leader wonderful and secure enough to thank her predecessor.  Juan, we could never have done this without you – never.  And thank you, Rosi and Deciminyan, for including me among this extraordinary group of people.  

    Among the current crop of people not pictured, I can think of several.  But certainly Babs Casbar Siperstein, whom we all know, admire and love deeply, should be there as much as any of the others.  The others would surely agree.

    Friends, the march to marriage equality sure as heck didn’t begin when I founded Garden State Equality.  Leaders came before who built the foundation that made everything else possible.  

    They include people such as Laura Pople, Kathy O’Brien and Wendy Berger, leaders of a predecessor organization to GSE that had led the way for so many years, the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition. I should have thanked the Coalition years ago, profusely, publicly and personally; God is not finished with me yet.  

    They include Steve Mershon, the leader of the Coalition’s Domestic Partnership Task Force that led the way in the campaign for the passage of the Domestic Partnership law in 2003, as well as Ann Baker and Carol Wachtler, key in their years’ long work to pass domestic partnership.  

    They include John Campbell and Rich Harrison, perhaps the first activists in New Jersey, dating decades before GSE, who relentlessly called for marriage equality – and well, the rest of us thought they were dreaming a pipe dream.  

    And if we were to include public officials from years ago – of course, we all know our champions among the officials of today – we’d have to include the late Assemblyman Bennett Mazur, driving force behind the successful bill to add sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination law in 1991; and Governor Jim Florio, who signed the bill – and whoa, that bill was a huge deal back then, a harder lift than marriage equality was today.

    What do we owe these heroes of history?  Everything.

  3. Steven Goldstein
  4. deciminyan

    Juan – you are a legend here. Hope to meet you face-to-face some day.

  5. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    Deciminyan included Jay in his photos. That’s his smiling face down the left column.  

  6. Rosi Efthim (Post author)

    But really, there’s nothing extraordinary about my lauding my predecessor. Juan in my mind is a near-singularity; one of the clearest, bravest people I know.

    Thanks for adding Babs, who attended Marsha & Louise’s wedding with us midnight yesterday. And Laura Pople, Kathy O’Brien and Wendy Berger, Ann Baker and Carol Wachtler, John Campbell and Rich Harrison, Asm Bennett Mazur and Gov. Jim Florio.

    Couple of updates: Juan Melli, now Communications Manager for City of Hoboken, was there as Hoboken’s first same-sex marriage was performed yesterday under the rainbow and American flags. And Wendy Berger will marry her longtime love Susan LaPasta Thursday morning 9am in Clinton. I’ll be there to celebrate.

  7. deciminyan

    …that photo of Jay was taken in the State House where he was advocating for another much-needed change in our laws – medicinal marijuana. Jay’s activism is multi-faceted.

  8. Jay Lassiter

    I’m on a few walls of fame and plenty of walls of shame too. I swing both ways, i just like being on the wall.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *