Garden State Equality Executive Director Wants to Explore LGBT Health Care Issues

A federal district court, for the second time, has thrown out a challenge to a New Jersey law prohibiting therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of teenagers, called conversion therapy. Garden State Equality Executive Director Andrea Bowen told NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams that she would like to start exploring the broad spectrum of health care issues that affect the LGBT community.

Bowen said that like other states, New Jersey is now facing the question of what comes after marriage equality. She said that to her, that is both fun and difficult. She said New Jersey was the leader in sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination and the major task right now is talking to people all over New Jersey and finding out what their experience is with the law, including if they are being protected by it.

Bowen calls the concept Lived Equality, when Garden State Equality finds out whether or not people’s day-to-day experiences really are being impacted by the powerful non-discrimination laws.

Bowen said that situations are becoming more fair for the LGBT community. She said not only is she seeing a lot of banner issues like marriage equality gaining speed, but she is also seeing a lot of great economic justice work happening. She said that economic justice explicitly affects the pocketbooks of people across all income spectrums, such a health care. She said that includes everything from HIV/AIDS, making sure that people are getting the treatment they need and making sure that LGBT seniors are treated with respect. She said that transgender people have medically necessary treatments that make their lives significantly better, but a lot of insurance policies do not cover those treatments. She said that is why it is really important to make sure that the broad spectrum of health issues that affect LGBT people are dealt with and that is something she wants to start exploring.

“I have always been a firm believer that if you really form that personal relationship with a person, that if you can bring in people from the ground to explain their situation and you have the best information to make your policy case, you’re gonna win. That is my theory of change. I am confident that we are going to be able to pull that off in New Jersey,” said Bowen.

Bowen said that the LGBT community could not have gotten to the point that it is now — post marriage, having sexual orientation and gender identity protections and having the sexual orientation and gender identity conversion therapy stopped. She said the New Jersey LGBT community would not be in this place if it weren’t for its clout as a community.