For the fourth year, Jersey City No. 1 in N.J. for LGBT rights

Published Friday, October 21, 2016

by Terrence T. McDonald

JERSEY CITY — For the fourth straight year, Jersey City is No. 1 on a national LGBT group's ranking of gay-friendly cities and towns.

The Human Rights Campaign's annual Municipal Equality Index put Jersey City above Lambertville, Asbury Park and Princeton. Jersey City received a perfect 100 yet again, one of 60 cities nationwide to do so.

To create the ranking, HRC looks at whether a city has a LGBT police liaison, whether the city's leadership has taken positions favored by the gay community and whether the city provides health benefits specific to transgender workers. The group looked at 506 municipalities this year.

Twelve New Jersey towns were examined by the HRC, including Hoboken, which scored a 51.

Hoboken spokesman Juan Melli said Hoboken's low score is the result of a snafu: the city didn't provide HRC with updated information so it lost points it should rightfully have received, like for having an openly gay elected official, First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco. Melli noted that Mayor Dawn Zimmer has been a vocal champion of LGBT rights and that the city was one of the first in the state to host same-sex marriages when they became legal in New Jersey in 2013.

Asked his thoughts on how gay-friendly Hoboken is, DeFusco said via text that he and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro were the only elected officials to appear at a Sept. 21 rally in support of a gay priest ousted by the Newark Archdiocese.

"Take from that what you will," DeFusco said.

Jersey City has been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT rights in recent years. It hosted midnight same-sex marriage ceremonies the moment they became legal in New Jersey and last year Mayor Steve Fulop announced the city would offer transgender-inclusive health benefits.

"What makes Jersey City so special is that it is a diverse, inclusive place, where all residents are welcome in our community — regardless of one's sexual identity or orientation," Fulop said in a statement. "One of the top priorities of my administration has and will continue to be preserving that sense of inclusion."