Anti-gay comments at Jersey City Board of Education meeting

Adela Rohena of Hudson County
Adela Rohena is a regular at running for public office in Hudson County

Jersey City Board of Education meeting ends in uproar

Adela Rohena, a Jersey City resident, touched off a firestorm at a Board of Education meeting by questioning why the school district felt it necessary to recognize LGBTQ Pride month in June.

Adela Rohena of Hudson County
Adela Rohena speaks about LGBT Pride month at a Jersey City Board of Education meeting and causes an uproar

Rohena initially said that she didn’t want her comments to be construed or labelled homophobic. She questioned why the district celebrates LGBT Pride Month and celebrating teachers or firefighters for a month. Rohena then ran over her five-minute time slot, saying, “what are they going to do, dance? What are they going to teach the kids of the public schools?” and “You need to work on your agenda and make it shorter. Give them one day. Why a whole month?, among other things. Her remarks caused gay Board of Education Trustee Gerald Lyons to walk off the stage.

“Recently, it is my opinion, that the thin skin that covers a lot of prejudice has been peeled away, and people have felt now they have the opportunity to say whatever they want about whatever group of people,” Lyons, who returned after Rohena sat down, said. “When you come out and you say that gays need an extra month so that they can dance, that’s offensive. As the only openly gay member on this board, possibly the only gay member, I find it very offensive that you would think that gays want a month so that we can come out and dance,” Lyons said.

Gerald Lyons a Jersey City Board of Education member
Gerald Lyons a Jersey City Board of Education member on Hudson County View in 2019

Rohena, who was the Republican candidate for county sheriff, was unrepentant about her remarks. “Let me tell you my friend, I voted for every single member of that board, so I expect Mr. Lyons not to get mad with me because it’s my First Amendment right to express my opinion,” she said. “I didn’t curse at them. Why do they get mad at me? What is the message (recognizing Pride Month) they are trying to bring to the Jersey City Public Schools? That’s my question.”

When Hudson County GOP Chairman Jose Arango heard Rohena’s comments, he advised her that he would no longer support her as candidate for sheriff and she withdrew from the race.

“I have been consistent as Republican chairman in support of LGBT rights even when the party wasn’t as enlightened on this issue,” Arango, a former assemblyman, said. “I will not support my candidates making homophobic remarks. Adela understands that and therefore will no longer be our candidate.”

Hudson County Sheriff Frank X. Schillari was shortly afterward endorsed by the GOP in Hudson County. “As one of the most diverse places to live in the entire nation, it is crucial that the people of Hudson County are represented by leaders who fight for equality and justice,” said Schillari. “Hate has no home in our community, and I am proud to be a Sheriff for everyone who calls Hudson County home. I would like to thank Hudson County Republican Chairman Jose Arango for his support. I’m proud to receive the endorsement of the Hudson GOP and look forward to continuing to make our county safer each and every day.”

Sheriff Schillari has worked for Hudson County for more than four decades. He is seeking re-election for Hudson County Sheriff in November having served as Sheriff since 2011. Schillari is a Navy Veteran and a lifelong Hudson County resident.