County to celebrate LGBTQ Pride at CommUNITY picnic

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County will hold its first LGBTQ Pride event to celebrate marriage equality in New Jersey when the county Board of Chosen Freeholders welcomes more than a dozen advocacy and ally organizations to Rahway River Park in Rahway on Sept. 16, from noon to 5 p.m. for the first Family Pride CommUNITY Picnic.

The event was originally slated to be held in June to coincide with Pride month, but bad weather forced the county to reschedule.

In a July 28 press release, Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen said, “The Freeholder Board is pleased to announce that the event, in its entirety, has been rescheduled for September. This celebration of life, love and liberty is about offering LGBTQ and ally parents and children a space to connect, support and celebrate together.”

LGBTQ family and marriage equality advocacy and ally organizations will be on hand at the event, alongside the freeholder board information van, with general information and resource materials available. Families are also invited to pack a bagged lunch and head to the park with blankets and lawn chairs, where a variety of food trucks will be parked.

Featured at the event will be family field games, music, arts and crafts, including a “Love Makes a Family” poster-making station, inflatable bounce houses for all ages, face painting, music and more.
A Family Equality Rally will kick off at 1 p.m. with guest speakers and performances. Parents and children are also invited to bring handheld signs to celebrate their families.

“Pride events matter because inequality is not always obvious. Union County’s pride event demonstrates the support for diversity and full equality,” Bergen said in the press release. “Marriage equality rights are in part the result of years of Pride events. The Family Pride CommUNITY Picnic brings advocates, allies, and families of the LGBTQ community together to celebrate individuality and raise awareness for the need to meet the equality challenges of the LGBTQ community.”

Seb D’Elia, Union County spokesperson, told LocalSource that the freeholder board is holding the event as a way to celebrate the strength of Union County’s diversity and to highlight its LGBTQ families.

“Throughout the month of June, cities nationwide host Pride celebrations,” D’Elia said in a June 8 email. “The freeholder board is proud hold this event as a way of offering LGBTQ and ally parents and children a space to connect, support and celebrate together. Marriage equality has helped same-sex couples feel more accepted and legitimized by their families and communities, and events like this in the community make it easier for other people to understand and affirm their relationship.”

Danni Newbury, of the county’s Office of Public Information and Communication at Union County, said the event is something the county has wanted to host for a long time.

“It has been a longtime desire of the freeholder board to host a LGBTQ pride event,” Newbury said in a June 8 email. “This year, with LGBTQ- knowable staff, the freeholder chairman took the opportunity to host the event as a special initiative of the freeholder chairman.”

According to Newbury, the event demonstrates the county’s support of diversity.
“There is always a need to be inclusive,” she said. “Everyone has value and deserves dignity and respect. Union County hosts the first Pride event to encourage unity and support for the LGBTQ community and to celebrate all families, to bring advocates, allies, and families of the LGBTQ community together to celebrate their individuality and raise awareness for the need to meet the challenges of inequality.”

Newbury said that families have expressed excitement about the event.
“We’re hearing a lot of excitement from many families, different family types — blended families, LGBTQ families, traditional families, adoptive families from throughout Union County and throughout the state,” Newbury said. “It is our hope, as Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen noted when he announced the event earlier this year, that when we look out across Rahway River Park at the family Pride event, we’ll see the diversity of what family looks like.”

Newbury said that the theme of the day is that love makes a family and diversity is worth celebrating.
“The event honors the strides we’ve made toward equality and helps to raise awareness about the unique challenges that LGBTQ parents and children face,” Newbury said. “For example, while the federal marriage equality law is a major milestone in the historic fight for equal rights, the law doesn’t really go far enough; it doesn’t secure the parental rights of the second parent in a same-sex marriage, it still contains barriers for same-sex couples to foster and adopt in some states, and many other LGBTQ- specific issues.”

In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held inside the Warinanco Sports Center in Warinanco Park, located in Elizabeth and Roselle.

For more information, visit ucnj.org/Pride, the Union County Family PRIDE CommUNITY Picnic event page at Facebook.com/CountyOfUnion or call the Union County Office of Parks and Recreation at 908-527-4900.

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