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C'mon New Jersey!

Jason Fraunberger,
LGBT Project
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December 11, 2009

Just last month, as the final votes were reported and Chris Christie was declared Governor-elect of New Jersey, my heart sunk. As a gay man in the state of New Jersey, I felt a personal sense of loss. Governor Corzine has been one of the most gay-friendly governors New Jersey has ever seen. I thought it was going to be at least another four years before the words “gay” and “marriage” would be used in the same sentence. However, all gay New Jerseyeans felt a spark of hope last week when the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey. Unfortunately, a vote on the bill before the entire Senate has been postponed to allow further amendments protecting religious organizations and testimony from the public. Many people believe that with the recent loss in New York that New Jersey Senators may be feeling wary to support the bill, and that this is perhaps the real reason the vote has been postponed.

As a lifetime New Jerseyan and a gay man, this bill is very important to me. Legal arguments aside, same-sex marriage comes down to this: Should two gay people who love each other be allowed the same rights as two straight people who love each other? Right now, at the young age of 18, I am not looking to get married, but I do plan on getting married when I get older. As of now, I don’t know if I will have that right once I find someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, and the thought of not being able to marry the person I love is horrible. I do, however, know several other New Jerseyeans who do want to get married. My very own uncle has been with his partner for over 30 years. They are very successful and wonderful people who have done nothing but help those who need it. The state of New Jersey does not allow them to get married, but rather puts them into a separate classification, “civil union.” It breaks my heart that these two great people, my uncles, cannot get married like everyone else.

This past summer I went to the gay pride parade in Asbury Park, N.J.. I hadn’t really had much exposure to many gay couples until I went to this event. I got to meet a ton of people, and even ended up volunteering at the entrance taking in donations and stamping hands. Seeing gay people from all walks of life all united in one purpose was truly inspiring and has since awoken the true activist in me. I am now an intern for the ACLU LGBT Project in New York City, and I love being on the front lines in the fight for equal rights. From my AP Government class to my internship on Thursdays, I find myself more and more aware of the intense amount of opposition that faces all supporters of gay rights. But there are two sides to every story.

I have met an increasingly growing number of supporters, and I find that they all have one thing in common. They are full of heart, dedication, and determination to this cause. Us New Jerseyans are known for our stubbornness, and we have made it clear in the past: We believe that all people deserve equal rights. The whole country has its eyes on New Jersey, and after the disappointment in New York, passage of this bill is crucial. Every New Jerseyan needs to take a stand. Even if it’s just discussing the bill with friends and relatives, getting the word out that there are so many supporters is vital. Call your state representative and your state senator, make your voice heard. C’mon New Jersey, now is our chance to prove to the rest of the country that we’re not just “Dirty Jersey.”

Jason is a high school senior from Elmwood Park, New Jersey.

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