RELEASE: Gottheimer Hosts LGBTQ+ Community Roundtable, Announces New Legislation to Protect Elderly LGBTQ+ Population

Discusses key issues including access to healthcare, homelessness, mental health, and legal protections

Jun 07, 2024
Press

Above: Gottheimer with North Jersey LGBTQ+ advocates and community leaders

FAIR LAWN, NJ — Today, Friday, June 7, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) hosted a roundtable with North Jersey LGBTQ+ advocates and community organizations, focused on key issues facing the LGBTQ+ community including access to healthcare, homelessness, mental health, and protections under the law. Gottheimer also announced new legislation, the Elder Pride Protection Act, which he is leading with Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota. This legislation will create a taskforce at the Department of Justice, focused on combating rising abuse against elderly LGBTQ+ Americans.

“It’s a privilege to represent North Jersey’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community and our Jersey Values in Congress, the first of which is freedom: freedom to be who you want to be and love who you want to live. Freedom to live free of fear, discrimination, and hate,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “I will always oppose any attempt by those in Washington or around the country to roll back the clock on progress. At the end of the day, equality shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.”

Gottheimer is supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Jersey by: 

  • Protecting elderly LGBTQ+ people – Gottheimer is introducing the Elder Pride Protection Act with Congresswoman Angie Craig (MN-2), the result of conversations he had at last year’s LGBTQ+ roundtable. The bill will create a taskforce at the Department of Justice, focused on combating rising abuse against elderly LGBTQ+ Americans.
  • Advancing the Equality Act  – Gottheimer is a cosponsor of the Equality Act, which he most recently helped pass out of the House in 2021. The Equality Act will ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination regarding housing, employment, federal funding, and more. One of the first bills Gottheimer introduced in Congress, the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act, is now included under the Equality Act.  
  • Standing up for LGBTQ+ youth  – Gottheimer is supporting two key pieces of legislation to help and empower our LGBTQ+ youth. The first, the Pride in Mental Health Act of 2023, expands investment in anti-bullying resources and education, focused specifically on LGBTQ+ students. The second, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, named for a Rutgers student from Ridgewood, New Jersey who passed away as the result of horrific anti-gay harassment, requires colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact an anti-harassment policy.
  • Enshrining marriage equality into law  – Gottheimer helped pass the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act in 2022, which makes marriage equality the federal law of the land and fends off attacks on marriage equality at the state level.

Gottheimer was joined by, New Jersey Assemblywoman Lisa Swain (LD-38), Mayor Gail Rottenstrich (Fair Lawn), Bergen County Executive Deputy Chief of Staff Jared Lautz, , The Trevor Project  Senior Director of Communications Jackson Budinger, Garden State Equality Deputy Director Brielle Winslow-Majette, Planned Parenthood Public Affairs & Advocacy Manager Anne Marie Venezia, New Jersey Department of Children and Families Statewide Education and Scholarship Coordinator Safa Simmons, New Jersey Department of Children and Families Legislative Affairs Manager Kate Bradley, The Pride Center of NJ President & Volunteer Coordinator Miguel Rivera-Rios, EdgeNJ Development Coordinator Daniella Mendez, Bergen County LGBTQ+ Advisory Board Community Relations Specialist Lee Brigham, Homeward President and Out for Montclair Board Member Simone Kraus, and Equality Mental Health President/Clinical Director Craig Cutler.

Below: Gottheimer with North Jersey LGBTQ+ advocates and community leaders

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Hello, and Happy Pride Month! I’m Congressman Josh Gottheimer, and I’m honored to be here with all of you for today’s roundtable.

It’s a privilege to represent North Jersey’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community in Congress and our Jersey Values in Congress, the first of which is freedom: freedom to be who you want to be and love who you want to live. Freedom to live free of fear, discrimination, and hate. These are the very freedoms we recognized yesterday on the eightieth anniversary of D-Day, where servicemembers from the Greatest Generation gave their leaves on the beaches of Normandy. I met a 98-year-old veteran from Fort Lee who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He looked me in the eye and said we can’t lose our democracy; we can’t lose the freedoms so many men and women have given their lives for. 

This Pride Month is a time for both celebration and action. We can celebrate the incredible strides that we’ve made over the past twenty years, driven by some incredible advocates and changemakers here in New Jersey and across our country: Harvey Milk, Harry Hay, Marsha P. Johnson, Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox, Barney Frank, and the leaders of Garden State Equality here in Jersey. 

Back in 2004, the State of New Jersey offered domestic partnerships — before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and before federal workplace protections against LGBTQ+ people.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of equal Civil Unions and then, in 2013, in Garden State Equality v. Dow, ruled that marriage — not partnerships, not civil unions — must be our state law.

On the national level, marriage equality became the law of the land with Obergefell v. Hodges. And four years ago, we won once again with the Bostock decision, which made anti-LGBTQ+ employment discrimination illegal. Bill by bill, case by case, we’re getting closer to making the greatest country in the world even better.

But, we still have work to do. And, Pride Month is a time for us to regroup and recommit ourselves to making America more inclusive.

Right now, in twenty-eight states, LGBTQ+ people are at risk of being denied housing simply because of who they are.  At the same time, discrimination against students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is allowed in twenty-eight states.

We’re also seeing increased hate and fear. There were more than 600 anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes reported in 2023. Hate crimes against our trans community specifically surged by thirty-five percent. A survey last year from the Human Rights Campaign found that eighty percent of LGBTQ+ adults felt less safe because of continued political attacks on gender affirming care across the country. It’s disturbing, and we can never be quiet in the face of this hate.

The worst part is that momentum is heading in the wrong direction across the country. Discrimination and hate are being further enshrined into the law. So far this year, the ACLU is tracking 515 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in our state legislatures. Every day, on social media and in the halls of Congress, we see some leaders trying to move our country backwards, harassing their fellow Americans simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I won’t stand for it. I will always have the LGBTQ+ community’s back because you have always had mine. I ran for Congress in 2016 against someone who was against gay people running for office. And because you put your trust in me, I’ve utilized my office to stand up for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Jersey and beyond.

I’m a proud member of the Equality Caucus, an organization of more than 195 Members of Congress, dedicated to advancing equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’ve joined the Caucus in sponsoring the Equality Act, which will ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination regarding housing, employment, federal funding, and more. In fact, one of the first bills I led in Congress, the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act is now included under the Equality Act.  

That critical bill stops credit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I’m also driving the PRIDE Act, which ensures same-sex married couples are treated equally under the tax code, and the GLOBE Act, which coordinates a federal response to anti-LGBTQ+ attacks around the world. These are issues that I’ve been focused on since day one — and will continue to drive forward. 

Before we dive into questions, I want to highlight three specific steps I’m taking right now in Washington to stand up for our LGBTQ+ community here in Jersey and across the country.

First, I’m incredibly excited to announce my new legislation, the Elder Pride Protection Act that I’m leading with Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota. The idea for this bill came out of my conversations with Garden State Equality at this very roundtable last year, so it’s a reminder of how important the conversations that we have here are. We actually take what we discuss here, or in my office, and act on it. 

My new bill will create a taskforce at the Department of Justice, focused on combating rising abuse against elderly LGBTQ+ Americans. No one should ever be mistreated on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, especially our vulnerable elderly populations. This legislation is a critical step in ensuring that we can coordinate our response to this runaway abuse at the federal level.

Second, I’m also standing up for our LGBTQ+ youth. For those of you who attended last year’s roundtable, you might recall that youth issues were the focus. And for good reason:  more than one in ten of our LGBTQ+ young people attempted suicide in the past year — and nearly four in ten seriously considered it. As a father of two, it breaks my heart to know that any child in America ever feels unsafe or unwelcome. 

I’m proud to support two key pieces of legislation to help and empower our LGBTQ+ youth. The first, the Pride in Mental Health Act of 2023, expands investment in anti-bullying resources and education, focused specifically on LGBTQ+ students. The second, the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, named for a Rutgers student from Ridgewood, New Jersey who passed away as the result of horrific anti-gay harassment. It requires colleges and universities receiving federal student aid funding to enact an anti-harassment policy. We need to make sure our campuses aren’t hubs of hate, which is why I’m proud to support this bill. 

Finally, I’m very focused on making sure we enshrine the rights that our LGBTQ+ community have fought so hard for. Last year, I was honored to join my colleagues in passing the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act, which will make marriage equality permanent. Bills like these are so important because they’re a firewall against extremism. By solidifying marriage rights at the national level, we’re thwarting attempts by radical legislators in states across the country to strip LGBTQ+ people of their rights. Let me reiterate this: I will always oppose any attempt by those in Washington or around the country to roll back the clock on progress.

After seven years in Congress, I’ve developed a reputation as a bipartisan problem solver and as someone who is also willing to throw a punch or two to get stuff done when we need to protect our Jersey Values – whether that’s about these issues, or reproductive freedom, or any form of hate and discrimination. And, I’m not afraid to stand up to bullies. Earlier this year, when Matt Gaetz decided to attack Garden State Equality, I made it clear that his brand of hate had no place in Jersey. I will go toe-to-toe with anyone who targets our LGBTQ+ community because it’s just the right thing to do. At the end of the day, equality shouldn’t be a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.

Here in the greatest country in the world, I know that when we stand for equality and against hate, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you. Happy Pride. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

Let’s kick off the conversation.

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