Author Archive: Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality chair

Primary Postcript: My thoughts on the 9th CD

Thank God it’s over.  Nothing in politics is more dissonant than a primary where your friends are on all sides.

It feels so right to be united, now, with friends like Jeff Gardner, Dave Parano , Jacky Grindrod and Michael Galluccio – all fantastic people – in support of a good man, Bill Pascrell.  Last night immediately after the results came in, Garden State Equality endorsed Bill Pascrell, as well as Donald Payne Jr. and Marie Corfield.  Garden State Equality had not endorsed in any of their primaries.

Too bad I live in the part of Teaneck, which the redistricting commission cynically divided into two Congressional districts, that falls into the new 5th district, where the race is between Adam Gussen and Scott Garrett.

I digress:  Adam Gussen, if you’re reading this, call me on my cell, (917) 449-8918, and let’s get together for lunch.   If Loretta wants me to support you, trust me, I do what the #1 woman in my life says – almost all the time.  

Over lunch, Adam, I’ll tell you about your fellow Teaneck council member, Elie Katz.

Like you and me, Elie is observant.  After we passed the marriage equalty bill earlier this year, Elie mailed to my home a $250 donation to Garden State Equality with a warm note of congratulations.  I didn’t expect it.  I don’t know Elie well.  But I was moved beyond measure.   So don’t be afraid, Adam.  Be a real Bergen Democrat.

Now back to the Pascrell-Rothman race.  What happened?  Here’s how I see it:

1.   Steve Rothman has been a spectacular public official whom I genuinely adore, personally and for the work he’s put into marriage equality over the years.  But the wrong campaign was run for him, and yes, I know, no one can run a wrong campaign without his or her consent.  If you’re thinking that, Blue Jersey, you are 100 percent right.  In a nutshell, I believe negative campaigns do work, sadly, but not all negative campaigns do, and not all places are conducive to negative campaigns.  

As a result, voters in Bergen who are Steve Rothman’s natural base got turned off and didn’t vote.  Most still didn’t vote for Bill Pascrell – they just didn’t vote.  I felt the sea change in opinion the last few weeks when ordinary people in the area, not just us political heads, began saying, “I don’t like the campaign Rothman is running.”  I was hearing it all over, deep into Rothman country.  

2.   Steve Rothman’s campaign raised Bill Pascrell’s profile in Bergen.  Frankly, I don’t think many people in Bergen heard of Bill Pascrell.  Politics, particularly in New Jersey, is that hyperlocal.   And when they took a first look at Bill Pascrell, they liked him.  When they took a second and third look, they liked him.  It’s hard not to like the guy.  He’s a fighter with an easy smile, warm shoulder and friendly wink.  Heck, I wish my own dad were like him.

3.   Bill Pascrell’s message that he was the incumbent in this district, which he and his campaign inculcated from the moment Steve Rothman announced his intention to run in the new 9th, worked precisely because of Bill Pascrell’s s demeanor.  The message doesn’t often work if the messenger is a pill – and voters found Bill Pascrell to be quite the opposite of a pill.

4.   There was an easy message Steve Rothman didn’t use enough with Bergen voters:  Bergen deserves a Congress member.  Say it over and over, inculcate it over and over.  Do you, Bergen voters, want to be without someone from our county representing you for the first time in your lifetime?  

Of course Bill Pascrell knows how to represent Bergen just fine, thank you very much.  But back to the rule of New Jersey politics:  All politics is hyperlocal.  The message would have been a hell of a lot cleaner and would have resonated more.

5.   GOTV.  Whatever Steve Rothman’s campaign spent on GOTV – and I don’t know what it was, for I, as an individual, endorsed Steve Rothman but wasn’t involved in the workings of the campaign – the GOTV budget should have been doubled or tripled, even at the expense of the ad campaign.  And I say that as a media guy by background.

It’s not hard to anticipate it is easier to do GOTV in a concentrated city like Paterson than in disperse suburban towns like in Bergen.

Like Loretta, I’m sad for the loss of Steve Rothman from our Congressional delegation.  He’s done amazing work for the causes closest to my heart.  Perhaps his major flaw is that he never wore his support on his sleeve over the years – he fought and fought for us behind the scenes with great devotion and effectiveness.

But Bill Pascrell won this battle fair and square and cleanly. A truly good man impressed us all with a truly good campaign.  I wish I could say I’m proud to have him as my new member of Congress.  

Alas, I’m a few streets too far away.

Thank you, Steve Sweeney

We should never have to apologize for giving credit where it’s due. Thank you Steven, and thank you Senator Sweeney! – JG

Can you believe I’m nervous about making a post here, dear Blue Jersey friends?   I understand that we progressives have differed with Senator Sweeney on some issues, especially with regard to labor.  But I am posting here about Senator Sweeney and marriage equality because fairness compels me to.  Please do not demolish me for doing so.  For as my grandmother of blessed memory would say, Nu, Steven, how much more therapy do you need?

By now, you’ve read the stories that Senator Sweeney will be leading the way today in announcing the re-introduction of a marriage equality bill.   A special shout out of thanks, by the way, to Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who has worked tirelessly for years on this issue and will continue to lead the way in the Assembly, and to our Senator Loretta Weinberg, our tireless and beloved legend.  And to too many others to name, but most of all to the Blue Jersey community, Garden State Equality’s incredible partners in the fight for marriage equality.

Back to Senator Sweeney:  This round of marriage equality, he has been spectacular.  Other than how our Loretta fights for every issue she believes in, I have rarely seen a legislator work so hard behind the scenes for an issue he believes in.  

Yes, Steve had a different view two years ago.  But a few months after his last marriage equality vote, Senator Sweeney came to me and said he wanted to make it right.  In private, and I think it’s okay if I say this, he spoke at quite some length about his change of heart, and this was well before any votes down the line that many disagree with.  His change was not a public relations stunt to divert attention from anything else.

I know – I have spent hours with the guy since the start of 2011.  Like all people in public life, he’s not two-dimensional.  More than most people in public life I know, and that’s more than a handful, the guy has a capacity for growth and self-reflection.  He’s not only been amazing on marriage equality, but I also believe we can work with him on other issues, too, and that the team of Steve and Loretta together will fight big fights for us and do big things for us – things we believe in.

I publicly thank Steve Sweeney, and I thank you in advance for not hating me for posting this.  Oy, mamele, now the dozens of posts begin!

Viki Knox: Where Garden State Equality Gets It Right

As the author of two diaries, here and here, taking issue with Garden State Equality’s response to the Viki Knox situation, Scott Weingart might like to reply to this. But I wanted to frontpage Steven’s response diary asap. Can there be two more important issues for us to concern ourselves with than discrimination and free speech? – promoted by Rosi

A bit more than 32 years ago, when I was a junior in high school, my classmates and I went out to dinner toward the end of the year with one of our teachers.  At the dinner, the teacher spewed anti-Semitic hate that left us in shock.   My classmates and I, joined by our parents, led a campaign asking the school to take action, and within a couple of weeks, the school let the teacher go.

Our teacher had the First Amendment right to free speech.  So, too, did the school have the right to act.  The school believed the teacher’s hateful comments compromised the ability of students to feel safe and comfortable in the teacher’s presence.  

Fast forward to 2011, when Viki Knox, a teacher at Union High School, posted this on Facebook:  “Homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation.   I know sin and it breeds like cancer!   I/we do not have to accept anything, anyone, any behavior or any choices!  I do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do.”  

Facebook, of course, did not exist when my teacher had dinner with us students in 1979.  But the situations are parallel, except that Ms. Knox’s invective reached more students, and she stated she teaches it.  As Ms. Knox wrote amidst the anti-LGBT invective she posted on Facebook: “THAT’S WHAT I TEACH AND PREACH.”  The all caps are hers.

In calling for the strongest possible personnel action to be taken against Ms. Knox, the Star-Ledger wrote in an editorial:   “She fired up a computer, identified herself as a Union High School teacher and posted bigoted remarks on Facebook – more than once.   She might as well have hopped on a soapbox across the street from the school and screamed her anti-gay rant into a bullhorn.  She created a fearful, hostile environment for students. That’s unacceptable.”

More after the jump.

Political history – and LGBT history – in New Jersey today

Hi, everyone.  It’s hard to imagine how Jeff Gardner feels today, having knocked off Senator John Girgenti and then seeing the Bergen Democrats nominate another progressive activist instead.  

But actually, we CAN imagine how Jeff, one of the classiest, most wonderful people in activism anywhere in America – someone we all love not only for his progressive leadership, but also because he is the ultimate mensch – feels today.  He’s disappointed the nominee isn’t himself, but he no doubt recognizes some political history was made today.  And Jeff, you played the leading role in making it happen.

Indeed, today was the first time in New Jersey history that any race for state legislature came down to two openly LGBT candidates, Jeff Gardner and the Mayor of Maywood, Dr. Tim Eustace, whom the convention chose as the party’s nominee for open Assembly seat in the newly configured 38th district.

Both Jeff and Tim are longtime active members in Garden State Equality.  You can imagine how we’re bursting with pride.  

It came down to geography, purely and simply.   This new 38th district is 92 percent Bergen County and 8 percent Jeff’s county, Passaic.  For that reason alone,

For those reasons, the Bergen Democratic Committee members wanted a Bergen candidate, and chose Tim Eustace.  

Tim is fantastic:   He is pro-equality everything, including marriage equality, a progressive, a reformer and an all-around great guy.  

How great that the party chose a progressive, openly LGBT candidate like Tim, while also expressing their admiration for another progressive, openly LGBT candidate in Jeff – which party leaders sure did today.  They went out of their way to praise Jeff’s political prospects.  

I was so deeply moved to see two members of Garden State Equality be the two candidates for the open seat.   As Tim whispered to me after, “Steven, did you ever imagine the day you’d see this?   It makes us proud to be Democrats again.”

Alas, I’m almost burying the lead – Tim and his Democratic running mates, incumbent Senator Bob Gordon and incumbent Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, both passionately pro-LGBT and pro-marriage equality, are in the fight of their lives in the general.  The new 38th legislative district is one of the three most competitive swing districts in the state.

We have got to work day and night for them in every way we can.  

Below is Garden State Equality’s official statement.   Thanks, all.




Both Tim Eustace and Jeff Gardner are also Garden State Equality members

Tim, nominated for Assembly today with running mates Senator Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner in the newly redrawn 38th legislative district, joins a ticket that will have Garden State Equality’s full support  

Jeff also ran a magnificent race, leading the stunning, successful campaign that ousted anti-equality Senator John Girgenti through redistricting

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Contact:  Steven Goldstein, Chair of Garden State Equality, cell (917) 449-8918

In a first in New Jersey politics – an election for state legislature between two members of the LGBT community – Dr. Tim Eustace, the Mayor of Maywood, was selected today in the Bergen County Democratic Convention today as the party’s nominee for the open Assembly seat in the newly drawn 38th legislative district.  All of us at Garden State Equality are thrilled for Tim, one of the state’s most capable and respected public leaders.  

Today’s nominated Democratic slate in the new 38th district – Mayor Tim Eustace for Assembly, alongside Senator Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner – is a spectacular ticket that stands for full equality, reform-minded government and fiscal responsibility.  

The new 38th district is among the very few swing legislative districts in New Jersey.   This will be a closely fought race.  Garden State Equality work day and night to elect Bob, Connie and Tim in November.

A word about another candidate who ran for today’s open Assembly seat in the new 38th district.  Like Tim Eustace, Jeff Gardner is a member of Garden State Equality.  For years, Jeff has served as Garden State Equality’s Vice Chair.  Our organization is enormously proud to have endorsed him for the open seat.

Jeff is one of New Jersey’s – and the country’s – leading progressive activists.  Jeff emerged through this process as a huge winner as well.  He made anti-equality Senator John Girgenti, in what is now an adjacent legislative district after redistricting, vulnerable enough to be redistricted out of a seat and forced to retire.  A “bona fide giant slayer,” as Bergen Record reporter Charlie Stile described him, Jeff has a future in public service that’s simply fantastic.  

Indeed, Jeff had everything going for him except for geography:  92 percent of the new 38th district is in Bergen County.  Jeff lives in the one town in district not in Bergen, the decisive factor to party leaders.

The race for the open Assembly seat in the new 38th district has been a particular point of pride for Garden State Equality.  Again, this was the first time the two leading candidates for any election in New Jersey came down to two members of the LGBT community and two Garden State Equality members.  

It is yet another milestone in trajectory of Garden State Equality’s influence in New Jersey politics.  Since Garden State Equality’s founding 2004, New Jersey has enacted 212 LGBT laws at the state, county and local levels, a national record.  This week, named Garden State Equality a Winner of the Week because of the outcome of redistricting, through which two anti-marriage equality state Senators, Democrat John Girgenti and Republican Sean Kean, lost their seats.  

Garden State Equality did not spend a dime in the process.  

Memories of Congressman John Adler, a great champion of LGBT equality

promoted by Rosi

Hi, Blue Jersey.  I would never otherwise post something generic here, respecting that it violates blog etiquette.  But I hope you’ll indulge me under the tragic circumstances of John Adler’s passing.  I just wrote the below to Garden State Equality members.  I hope it shows how much he meant to the LGBT community and our legions of supporters, and provide an additional glimpse into a man we loved very much.

Dear Garden State Equality members:

           Throughout the years, we’ve shared the joys and heartbreaks of activism – thankfully way more joys.  Now I must share with you a heartbreak.   This is brutal.

           Congressman John Adler, who as Chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee partnered with Garden State Equality to author or coauthor many of the 212 LGBT civil rights laws enacted since our organization’s founding in 2004, died today.  He was 51.  He had been in the hospital for the last month after contracting a staph infection.  He leaves behind his wife Shelley, whom he met at Harvard Law School, and their four sons, Jeffrey, Alex, Andrew, and Oliver.

           John Adler had a towering intellect, a heart without boundaries, a grace matched only by his wit, and a steely resolve to win equality for all who have faced discrimination.  As Chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee until his election to the U.S. Congress in 2008, John was one of the most important champions of LGBT civil rights who has ever held public office in New Jersey, often teaming up with our Loretta Weinberg, who of course continues in the Senate today.

           It is impossible to overstate John’s importance as an all-time hero to our movement for equality.  Basically all LGBT civil rights bills in New Jersey go through the Senate Judiciary Committee.  As Chairman of that Committee, John was not only the gatekeeper of our future, but also the successful guarantor.  With every ounce of enormous integrity, passion and wise strategy, John fought for us as if we were his own brothers and sisters.  He used his enormous power to face down anyone who stood in the way of our progress.  


Jay Lassiter vs. the NJEA: A behind-the-scenes assessment

In his critical post on the NJEA below, Jay Lassiter wrote one of Blue Jersey’s more provocative diaries, to be sure.  Yes, it was burning hot, but that’s our Jay.  We love him for being bold and blunt when we agree with him, don’t we?  Thus I can’t see the consistency in being offended by his same style when we disagree with him.  As a wise public servant once told me, the difference between being inflammatory and courageous isn’t really style at all.  It’s whether you agree with the speaker.

And it just so happens, I agree with Jay.  

Follow me below the fold to find out why.

Governor Christie signs the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

Hi, Blue Jersey.  We’re jubiliant.  Governor Christie’s office called Valerie Vainieri Huttle’s office and Mary Pat Angelini’s office earlier this morning to tell them he has just signed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, and Governor Christie’s spokesperson Michael Drewniak has now confirmed it to the press.

Thank you and God bless you, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Barbara Buono, Mary Pat Angelini, Diane Allen and Loretta Weinberg, the prime sponsors of the law.

Thank each and every one of you, our wonderful partners at Blue Jersey, so deeply much for your partnership on this and so many other landmark laws we’ve passed together over the years.  You know, one year ago tomorrow, January 7, 2010, the state Senate voted down marriage equality.  

We regrouped and passed the strongest possible anti-bullying law by far – a law that will make every bit of a difference in our society as marriage equality will – and we’ll win that too.  Stay tuned on that one.

Resilience, as they say, is the key to winning civil rights. You can give in, you can give out, but you can never give up.  And you never do, Blue Jersey.  Again, thank you so much for your vital role in helping with this law, which will improve the lives of our kids forever.  

Here are some highlights of the new law.

America’s first anti-bullying law that sets statewide deadlines for incidents of bullying to be reported, investigated and resolved.

Under the new law, teachers and other school personnel must report incidents of bullying to principals on the same day as a bullying incident.  An investigation of the bullying must begin within one school day.  A school must complete its investigation of bullying within 10 school days, after which there must be a resolution of the situation.

America’s first anti-bullying law to provide for an anti-bullying coordinator in every district, and an anti-bullying specialist in every school to lead an anti-bullying team that also includes the principal, a teacher and a parent.

America’s first anti-bullying law to grade every school on how well it is countering bullying – and to require that every school post its grade on the home page of its website.  Also on the home page of its website, every school must post contact information for its anti-bullying specialist.

America’s first anti-bullying law to ensure quality control in anti-bullying training by requiring the involvement of experts from academia and the not-for-profit sector.

America’s first anti-bullying law to provide training to teachers in suicide prevention specifically with regard to students from communities at high risk for suicide.

America’s first anti-bullying law to apply not only to students in grades K-12, but also to higher education.  Public universities in New Jersey will have to distribute their anti-bullying policies to all students within seven days of the start of the fall semester.

The law applies to extracurricular school-related settings, such as cyberbullying, school buses, school-sponsored functions and to bullying off school grounds that carries over into school.

The law requires a school to notify the parents of all students involved in an incident, including the parents of the bully and the bullied student, and offers counseling and intervention services.

The law mandates year-round anti-bullying instruction appropriate to each grade, and an annual Week of Respect in every school that will feature anti-bullying programming.

The law applies to all bullied students.  In addition to protecting students based on the categories of actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression, the law has clear language protecting students bullied for any other reason.  

This Monday, the full Assembly and full Senate vote on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

It’s official, Blue Jersey!  This Monday, November 22, appropriately during Thanksgiving week, the full New Jersey Assembly and the full New Jersey Senate will vote on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.  

The Assembly session begins at 1:00 pm, and the Senate session at 2:00 pm.  Both houses are voting on a lot of bills on Monday, with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights scheduled for the middle of the pack in each house, though that can change and be moved up earlier in each bloc.

All of us at Garden State Equality would be honored if you’d meet us Monday at 1:00 pm in front of the State House Annex, 125 West State Street.  This is a big, big achievement for Blue Jersey as much as it is for anyone else.  Frequent Blue Jersey writers Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Barbara Buono, and Blue Jersey front pager Loretta Weinberg, are among the prime sponsors (love you, Valerie, Barbara and Loretta!).  So many others at Blue Jersey have worked relentlessly to call attention to the necessity for this landmark bill.

We’ll hold a news conference with legislators at the State House right after the second chamber votes.  And then we’ll head to the Marriott for what we anticipate will be a happy, happy evening.  

Shehecheyanu – thank you, God, for bringing us to this moment.

This Monday, Nov 15th, BOTH Senate and Assembly hearings on the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

promoted by Rosi

Hi, Blue Jerseyans.  Legislation doesn’t move much faster than this in Trenton.  This Monday, November 15th, both the Senate Education Committee and the Assembly Education Committee will hold hearings and vote on our bipartisan Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.

Garden State Equality is holding a full day of lobbying Monday around the hearings.  Please join us.  We ask you to wear purple, ie a purple shirt, sweater or something else purple, the color to remember bullied students who took their lives.  We’ll have anti-bullying signs and stickers.

Here’s Monday’s schedule:

Meet 9:30 am in front of the State House Annex.

10:00 am in Committee Room 6 — Senate Education Committee hearing and vote.  We’ve lined up compelling witnesses who have not yet told their stories of being bullied, of having loved ones bullied — and some who tried to take their lives because they were bullied.  They really need our support.

Approximately 12:30 pm, i.e. right after the Senate Education Committee hearing, on the State House steps — press conference and rally featuring bullied students and families of bullied students.  We’ll also serve free sandwiches and soda to attendees.

2:00 pm, back in Committee Room 6 — Assembly Education Committee hearing and vote.

28 Senate sponsors for the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

Some more fantastic news on our bipartisan Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights.  (See video below)  Two weeks ago , as you know, the bill was introduced with 43 Assembly sponsors – now up to 46, five more Assembly members than needed for passage.  Today was the first day since then that the Senate had a quorum and that the chief Senate sponsors, Barbara Buono, Diane Allen and Loretta Weinberg, could officially introduce the bill.  In truly awesome news, the bill was introduced today with 28 Senate sponsors, seven more Senators than needed for passage.  The sponsors include 11 of the Senate’s 16 Republicans.  We hope to have additional news on the bill’s progress soon.  This legislation is going to help every student whose life has been made hell by bullying.  We are overjoyed.