New Jersey has long been at the forefront in the fight for basic civil rights for the LGBT community. Ending discrimination in jobs and housing, ensuring marriage equality and passing the most comprehensive anti-bullying law in the country have been, in large part, due to the leadership of Garden State Equality. Christian Fuscarino is the newly appointed executive director. NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams spoke with him about his plans for the organization.
Williams: It’s easy to organize people around a single issue, but is there a single issue? What’s on your agenda?
Fuscarino: Well first of all thank you for having me on the show. There’s been organizations across this country who were focusing on marriage equality and over the past year you’ve seen them close shop. But if you look closely at Garden State Equality, we’ve been focusing on issues like anti-bullying in schools, older adult services, so as soon as marriage equality passed we still have all these other things we’ve been working on and we’re also shifting our focus to other issues like economic justice.
Williams: This is also outside the LGBT community, you’re engaging other people just to make sure there’s no discrimination against anyone, anywhere, no matter what.
Fuscarino: Right, so we’re focusing on a broader base of social justice movement. We have specific LGBT issues we want to get figured out over the next year or so, but we want to speak out against discrimination, whether that’s against the Muslim community, communities of color, immigrants. These are LGBT issues too and those people belong to our community.
Williams: And there’s no danger of losing your core mission as a consequence?
Fuscarino: I think that our core mission and a core value of the LGBT community should and has been social justice.
Williams: Let’s talk about, because we have to, the old bathroom law. North Carolina passed it, Mississippi passed it. Where do you put that push back that is coming against transgender people?
Fuscarino: Well, first I want to thank the Obama administration for calling it out what it is. It’s ridiculous and transgender people have been using the restroom for decades. You don’t know who’s in the stall next to you and the fact that we’re talking about this is ridiculous. It’s absurd.
Williams: Right, so where’s it coming from?
Fuscarino: It’s coming from a place in America where we now have marriage equality and conservatives and anti-LGBT individuals are looking for places to pester and slap the LGBT community in their face.
Williams: You’ve been talking about economic justice issues and you are organizing a protest against people, for instance six-term Congressman Scott Garrett, who does not support gays and rejects funding for people who do support gays. How can you, as a 25-year-old, go up against a six-term congressman?
Fuscarino: Well, you know Scott Garrett is not just someone that is anti-LGBT, I like to think he’s anti-American. Right? This is an individual who voted against gay marriage. This is an individual who voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This is a man who will not even support gay candidates in his own party. This is someone who does not want certain Americans to live their fullest lives.
Williams: That’s in one county. You said you plan to travel to all 21 counties in the state so that you can see the differences in issues that LGBT people have around the state. Are there differences?
Fuscarino: Well, thank you for reading up on my focus for the next few months. I want to go to each county in New Jersey to understand what issues are important to LGBT people throughout our state. We’re really a richly diverse community. We have people of color, we have women, we have people who have disabilities, we have older adults, we have young people, even people younger than me at 25, that all have something else that is different that is impacting them and I need to understand that in order to be their voice in Trenton.