For the LGBTQ community, Garden State Equality (GSE) is both a backbone of the community and a champion of rights. As Executive Director, Christian Fuscarino not only navigated the organization through the extremely challenging last year, but is looking ahead to crucial initiatives like protecting senior LGBTQ community members and ensuring that the community’s history is taught to children nationwide. As Garden State Equality prepares for their 12th Annual Equality Walk (kicking off on June 12th), we chatted about all of their upcoming initiatives, being a crucial partner of Ocean Casino Resort, & what makes New Jersey’s LGBTQ community stand out nationwide.

Michael Cook: What do you see as some of the biggest victories we have had as a community in the last year? 

Christian Fuscarino: Now is one of the most exciting and impactful times to be involved with Garden State Equality. We had some major legislative victories this past year – including protecting LGBTQ Older Adults and ensuring that all our veterans receive the benefits they are entitled to, we are positioned to help reform archaic HIV criminalization laws, codify marriage equality, and pass harm reduction bills in the coming months. We are working hard to ensure that everyone in our community is experiencing equality in their daily lives, especially our trans siblings.

MC: And some of the biggest challenges?

CF: Our biggest challenges are combating hatred and bigotry–even here in New Jersey we had a few anti-LGBTQ laws introduced this year. We also know that LGBTQ youth experience some of the highest rates of bullying in school. That’s why Garden State Equality is proud to visit schools throughout our state and offer professional development training to ensure that all students have a safe and affirming environment to learn.

 MC: What do you think makes the LGBTQ community in New Jersey truly stand out nationwide? 

CF: New Jersey leads the nation on equality. We are the first state in the nation to have passed a Transgender Equality Task Force, we are the 2nd state in the nation to teach LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in our schools – first in the nation to teach it across all relevant subject areas. What we do here is often a blueprint for the rest of the nation.

 MC: The Equality Walk is coming up on June 12th & June 13th and is the organization’s largest community fundraiser. What is some of the work that GSE is doing that The Equality Walk helps benefit?

CF: Equality Walk funds go directly into our programming that help LGBTQ youth and educational initiatives that help make our state more equal for all LGBTQ residents.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GARDEN STATE EQUALITY’S EQUALITY WALK

MC: What is it like having Ocean Casino Resort working with you as such a close partner and ally? 

CF: Ocean Casino Resort stands tall over the Atlantic City and South Jersey LGBTQ community. By supporting Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ organization, it’s sending a loud message to those in our community that Ocean Casino Resort stands with them. While so much of our work is about trainings and education, there is no doubt that our community likes to have fun – it’s nice to know people of legal age can safely enjoy their time off at Ocean Casino Resort! Learn more about PRIDE Happy Hour & Specials at Ocean.

 MC: For Garden State Equality, what will be some of the biggest initiatives within the next year? 

CF: A big focus of our work is around mental health, especially with the pandemic this past year. This is about lived equality, and ensuring that everyone experiences a full and healthy life.

 MC: How can residents get involved with Garden State Equality as an organization? 

CF: We encourage people to visit www.GardenStateEquality.org and sign up for updates. We are also on social media and post a lot there as well. Staying connected will allow our community to grow stronger! Follow Garden State Equality on Instagram

Join Garden State Equality on Saturday June 12 for a Pride Happy Hour at Ocean Casino Resort from 5PM-7PM. Learn more