Union County establishes the first county LGBTQ Office in New Jersey

606
Union County, NJ Office of LGBTQ Services was established in January of 2018
Union County, NJ Office of LGBTQ Services was established in January of 2018

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced the launch of an Office of LGBTQ Services. The new office is the first County government office of its kind in the State of New Jersey. Danni Newbury, will be the coordinator.

“Operating under the new Division of Outreach and Advocacy in the Department of Human Services, Union County’s Office of LGBTQ Services will provide a platform for leadership and collaboration to support equality, and serve as a catalyst for advocacy, awareness and action on current and emerging issues that impact the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals,” said the January 7, 2018 press release.

Union County, New Jersey announced the Office of LGBTQ Services on January 7, 2018
Union County, NJ announced the Office of LGBTQ Services on January 7, 2018

“My commitment to the LGBTQ community, through a progressive directive working alongside my Freeholder colleagues has inspired us to establish the new Office of LGBTQ Services,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “Charging the office with promoting equality, and advancing programs, resources and services to support LGBTQ individuals and their allies through inclusion and unity within our communities.”

The office will work to develop innovative strategies to help address the needs of the LGBT community on issues that include housing, education, health, public safety and community engagement said the Freeholder Board. “I am proud we are taking the progressive movement in leading County governments in the State of New Jersey to protect LGBTQ rights progress and resist discrimination, hate and division,” Granados added.

“The new political reality in Washington has alarmed many,” said Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, liaison to the Union County LGBTQ Ad Hoc Committee. “As a Freeholder representing the interests of all Union County residents, I believe it is extremely important to lead our communities toward acceptance of all people and advocate for full equality. The new LGBTQ office will service an important role in LGBTQ civil rights awareness and advocacy.”

Other organizations chimed in at the announcement on January 7, 2018. New Jersey’s largest LGBT organization, Garden State Equality, said, “We are proud to support the State’s first County government LGBTQ office.” Christian Fuscarino, GSE Executive Director, said he looked forward to working with the office.

“In our day-to-day work, we strive to ensure all foster youth find permanency in an environment in which they are safe, affirmed and supported — and this is especially true for those whose rights may be more easily unfulfilled or violated,” said Marla Higginbotham, CASA of Union County Executive Director.  “We applaud Chairman Granados for creating the state’s first county Office of LGTBQ Services, under the Department of Human Services’ Division of Outreach and Advocacy. LGBTQ issues are foster care issues too.”

“Partnerships with local leaders afford us the opportunity to be a voice in the public debate surrounding HIV/AIDS and provide the services necessary to end this horrific epidemic,” said Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, Executive Director of Hyacinth.

Freeholder Mirabella added, “The new Office of LGBTQ Services will be persistent and determined in our work to counter the atrocious actions of the current administration in Washington with programs and services that help ensure the rights and safety of LGBTQ individuals.”

Through the Union County Office of LGBTQ Services, the Freeholder Board will host community engagement events including the first Union County LGBTQ PRIDE flag raising ceremony to launch PRIDE Month and the second annual Union County Family PRIDE CommUNITY Picnic. The Office will also facilitate access to resources, information, and programs on LGBTQ awareness days, a resource directory of LGBTQ-friendly organizations and businesses, as well as a list of federal and state legislative decisions on LGBTQ issues, and other areas of interest to the LGBTQ community and their allies.

In February, the Office of LGBTQ Services will host a roundtable for organizations that serve the LGBTQ community to discuss programs, services, issues and priorities for 2018.

For more information about the Office of LGBTQ Services, contact Danni Newbury, coordinator, at 908-527-4742 or dnewbury@ucnj.org.