Garden State Equality Director: We’re Still Tackling Issues

One year ago, New Jersey became the 14th state in the union to approve same-sex marriage. At least 3,763 couples have wed since and another 16 states have legalized gay unions. With that triumph, funding to tackle issues important to the LGBT community has dwindled to a trickle. Garden State Equality has cut staff and curtailed advocacy efforts. Garden State Equality Executive Director Andrea Bowen told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that organizations have seen less money to fight causes since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“So this is a thing that we’ve actually seen with organizations across the country where people thought sort of after repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and doing marriage that the LGBT movement was over,” said Bowen. “It’s not. We have a huge portfolio of issues to tackle and so we’re tackling them but with a lot less money.”

According to Bowen, some of the other issues consist of health work and making sure that transgender individuals can receive health insurance coverage for the care they need. Other ares include taking a look at HIV and AIDS, as well as making sure that doctors know how to treat their patients kindly. Another issue that Bowen touched on was homelessness within the LGBT community.

Currently Garden State Equality is working on anti-bullying efforts and Bowen said it is important to make sure that schools around the state know how to be respectful toward LGBT students.

“It’s knowing to not assume that all of your students are going to be with opposite sex partners,” said Bowen. “It’s knowing that like transgender students, like a transgender woman, female students should be able to use a girls room and girls’ facilities but teachers don’t necessarily and schools don’t necessarily know that. So I’m giving them the tools to make a safe space.”

Bowen recently worked in Washington for advocacy targeting birth certificate and name change reform. Within the state, Bowen said that the organization is working on having it changed. Currently in New Jersey, a sex change on a birth certificate can only be made if the person has had gender reassignment surgery.

“So we’re trying to make sure that doctors who know their patients, who know their trans patients can say this person’s had the treatment that’s appropriate for them and that’s how we understand trans people to be,” Bowen said. “Everybody’s transition is very different and so we’re trying to make sure that the law reflects that so you can get your gender marker changed even though you haven’t had surgery.”