New Jersey Issues Apology for Systemic Discrimination Against LGBTQ Bars

Wednesday June 30, 2021

For 34 years, the state of New Jersey manipulated its liquor laws to disenfranchise the LGBTQ community, and now it's owning up, reports The New York Times. Dozens of recently released records prompted an apology from New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Governor Phil Murphy, with the latter of whom writing in an official statement.

"For too many years, New Jersey failed to live up to its professed values of diversity, inclusion, and respect as it relates to our LGBTQ+ community," said Murphy. "While we cannot undo the injustices of the past, today's action by Attorney General Grewal demonstrates our commitment to recognizing the harms that have been suffered and acting to provide support to New Jersey's LGBTQ+ residents."

"The Attorney General's Office is charged with furthering justice in New Jersey, and yet for more than three decades, our office fell far short," Grewal added. "The time has come to acknowledge this failing, to apologize for what happened, and to make sure it never occurs again. We are committed to righting this historical wrong and strengthening our relationship with New Jersey's LGBTQ+ community."

"To be clear, today's ABC is committed to according respect, dignity, fairness and appropriate due process to all parties and persons before it and will not discriminate—or by extension allow licensees or permittees to discriminate—against protected classes or the public," said ABC Director James Graziano. "We join Attorney General Grewal in acknowledging and condemning the harm our agency caused to members of the LGBTQ+ community and offer our sincere apologies to the generations of individuals impacted by it."

LGBTQ organizations recognized the statement as a positive step forward. "This part of our community's history is important to tell," Christian Fuscarino, executive director of Garden State Equality, the state's largest gay rights group, told The Times. "It wasn't centuries ago that LGBTQ+ people were persecuted for loving openly. It was recent history that is important to know as we push equality forward."

The recently released documents will also be used to create sample lesson plans as part of New Jersey's LGBTQ curriculum pilot program, making it the fourth state to require inclusive teaching of LGBTQ history. EDGE recently reported that Illinois would also join the ranks of states mandating queer history.

"By incorporating information about our histories very quietly and uncontroversially into general education, it begins to sort of de-systematize that absence," Victor Salvo, founder and executive director of the Legacy Project, told EDGE.

"It may take a generation for the full effects of this to telegraph out, but it will at least have an immediate effect on the quality of life for these kids. Prevailing studies like GLSEN's National School Climate Survey show that kids who grow up and experience education in a school that has LGBTQ-inclusive education content simply have better outcomes—the dropout rate is lower, the incidence of drug abuse is lower, the incidence of bullying is lower. And not coincidentally, the same studies show that all students benefit from it—that all incidences of bullying are addressed by LGBTQ-inclusiveness because it changes the climate in which bullying of all types can flourish."