NJ First Lady Tammy Murphy breaks her silence

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Tammy Murphy at LGBT reception at the NJ Governor's residence in 2018.
Tammy Murphy at LGBT reception at the NJ Governor's residence in 2018.
Tammy Murphy says recent pro-LGBT legislation in NJ is only the beginning 

First Lady Tammy Murphy is a breath of fresh air. Politics has been plagued by the sanctimonious voices of Ivanka Trump, Tomi Lahren and Ann Coulter, women in politics who have shown as much support for LGBT rights as they have for women’s rights.

Nonetheless, if there is one First Lady to be admired, it is First Lady Tammy Murphy. Murphy set a precedent as the first spouse of a New Jersey Governor to give a speech at the inauguration.

Tammy and Phil Murphy with supporters at LGBT reception at the NJ Governor's residence in 2018.
Tammy and Gov. Phil Murphy with supporters at LGBT reception at the NJ Governor’s residence in 2018.

Holding a resume impressive enough to go head-to-head with President Trump, she is silencing myths and assuring the community that recent pro-LGBT legislation is only the beginning in a new era.

Starting off on a lighter note, I read that you and the Governor met while working for Goldman Sachs, becoming engaged a mere 18 days after your first date. How did you know Phil Murphy was “the one”?

Tammy Murphy: You can be the first to break the truth of the matter. I did not meet Phil while I was working at Goldman Sachs. I actually met him when he was visiting friends who were interviewing from Goldman Sachs, while I was being interviewed by Goldman Sachs. I was not an employee when I met Phil; I was attending the University of Virginia.

What is the actual timeline?

TM: Phil and I first met in January 1987, I started working at Goldman Sachs in August 1987 and we were simply friends. Interestingly, I moved overseas while he was overseas for Goldman Sachs, and we ultimately crossed paths again in February 1993. We were friends for a long time. Our lives paralleled so much so, that when it came time to put together our wedding lists, we had plenty of spillage (laughs).

The Governor, Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy hosted LGBT reception in early 2018

Your family hosted an LGBT reception at the Governor’s Mansion. How did it come about?

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy at Amusement Park
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy at Amusement Park

TM: I was absolutely stunned when I discovered this. I literally pushed back on everybody in disbelief, thinking it was discrepancy. I could not believe such a large sector of our people have gone so many years without being acknowledged. While I am not sure if the Drumthwacket Pride reception is a victory leap, I am happy we initiated this. We are finally on par with getting everything on the right track. Once I learned that we were the First Family to host such an event in New Jersey, I knew we had to hit the ground running.

The Governor signed three new bills this summer to expand the rights and protections for New Jersey’s LGBT community. Can you touch upon this? Is this the start of a new wave of support for LGBT rights and equality?

TM: I don’t think that Phil has been shy in his conviction, and our conviction, that there are a lot of things which are simply common sense for our family. We have said many times over that we believe, and we genuinely believe, that the diversity New Jersey brings within is invaluable. Whether it is a “wave” of support per say I do not know. But what I do know is that if there is more legislation then there is more protection.

The New Jersey Governor and his wife work as a team

You were very active in your husband’s campaign to such an extent that the Governor labeled you his “de facto finance chair.” You are also the first spouse of a New Jersey Governor to give a speech at the inauguration. How do you see your role as professional and personal partner to the governor in helping to get his agenda established? Also, what are you most passionate about helping the Governor to achieve for women and the LGBT community?

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy

TM: Phil and I have always worked as a team. I think it sends a positive message to women and minorities to see me so passionately involved, as opposed to taking a passive stance on issues. During the administration of the former Governor, we were in awe at all of the behavior which led to the historic low approval ratings, especially the disregard while the economy was down the tubes. Outside of LGBTQ related matters, I am particularly interested in the environment. I am also a diplomat around women’s and children’s issues. I am working specifically to address the infant mortality rate in New Jersey, as there has been a poor track record on that front.

Suicide rates for youth and young adults are unfortunately on the rise. They are also considerably higher for LGBT individuals. I was intrigued to learn you and the Governor started 2ND Floor — a confidential help line for youth and young adults which has taken over 750,000 calls. And as a mother of four, what inspired you to start 2ND Floor: Youth Helpline of New Jersey? Is there anything in particular you see yourself as able to do to aid LGBT youth causes such as homelessness, bullying, trans youth, etc.?

TM: 2ND Floor was inspired by a program Phil became aware of in the United Kingdom called Childline. We adopted the best concepts of Childline and brought it here to the United States. We felt this was something integral to help the community and youth whenever they needed it. I am glad you raised this question as the highest incidents of callers come from those who are being bullied. I firmly believe normalizing help will lead to a better society. Aiding anyone who is being ostracized in any way, shape or form is something Phil and I want to do. We originally felt that if we could help even one person, then the organization would be a success. Fast forward to today, 2ND Floor has become the statewide help line, and is on its way of taking upwards of one million calls.

Tammy Murphy has many concerns and goals of her own 

I understand you are the Founder and Chair of New Start New Jersey, as well as Secretary of the Climate Reality Action Fund, the climate change organization founded by Al Gore. Recently, the American Lung Association released their annual State of the Air Report with many New Jersey counties receiving an F grade. Approximately 735,000 state residents suffer from asthma. The former Governor seemed not at all concerned with the environment. What are your feelings and aspirations?

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy on left
New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy on left

TM: I will tell you that my stance when it comes to the environment is very deep. I approach this from a climate change vantage point, given my direct education with Al Gore and all that I have been exposed to. Truthfully, the whole notion of asthma and air quality is a big problem. And we all recognize that it is a problem. One in four children in the Newark region have some form of asthma. That is a social justice issue which we have to tackle.

With respect to the environment, there is another myth I would like to debunk. It is the perception that if we are going to increase the reliance upon renewables ala wind and solar, and get away from the fossil fuel world, then that is going to be a job killer as well as cost major money. The reality: that is not true at all. In fact, it is doing good and well elsewhere it is in place. Phil and I are all in for cleaning up the environment, and specifically moving us to a 100% percent clean energy economy by the year 2050. That is something we have said openly, we believe in it. It will definitely help with the air quality issues. As someone who works with Al Gore; this is an existential crisis and we need to start getting on board and doing our fair share for the planet.

Can you elaborate on your professional background as well as your personal priorities? Are there specific issues or causes you intend to make your own?

TM: I am involved in a plethora of different subjects because I have an interest in many different things. Whether it is opioid addiction, women’s and children’s issues, the #MeToo movement, or the environment. There is a lot I am involved in, because there is so much to be done within the state. I am first and foremost a wife, a mother, and a daughter. Thus, the aforementioned will always be first in my mind. I am trying to help Phil and Sheila in any way I can. If there are projects that are not exactly what they can work on, and they need someone to dig in, I will always be that person to help out.

The Christie administration exemplified strong opposition to any pro-LGBT legislation and initiatives. He is now out of office. However, Donald Trump is the President, and his stance is akin to that of the former Governor. Can you assure us that you and the Governor vow to protect LGBT rights despite any rollbacks President Trump may attempt?

TM: I do not think we have been shy about our issues with those who do not stand for the benefit of the majority of the population. We believe very strongly, as indicated with the legislation Phil has signed. We want to see equality for everyone. That is our driving principle every single day: how are we going to help (the most) people across the state!?

The fact that the LGBTQ community has been oppressed, harassed and bullied, and that such behavior has been endorsed by those in leadership, is highly offensive to me. It is offensive to Phil. And we will stand up for the rights of those people who need our help the most.