UNION COUNTY, NJ — Insider NJ has released its 2022 “LGBTQ-plus Power List,” which features 100 spots for the most politically influential members of the LGBTQ community in New Jersey.
“There’s a pronounced and conspicuous glass ceiling for LGBTQs in New Jersey politics,” the introduction to the list reads. “Sure, the gatekeepers are happy to have us as ‘the help’ on campaigns and in government positions. But when it comes to elected office, opportunities are paltry because the gatekeepers and party bosses of New Jersey politics still very much prefer a status quo that’s overwhelmingly heterosexual.”
The point of this list is to recognize members of the LGBTQ community who contribute greatly to their local communities, the state of New Jersey and the country.
“The elected officials on this year’s list — mayors, commissioners, councilmembers alike — have already demonstrated that LGBTQs can win,” Insider NJ political reporter and columnist Jay Lassiter wrote. “Since losing his first election in 1994 for freeholder, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora has compiled a 12-1 win-loss record. Passaic County Commissioner Bruce James is undefeated on Election Day with a 5-0 record. Likewise Rebecca Williams, Union County commissioner and former councilwoman, remains undefeated on Election Day with a record of 4-0. Even this year’s top Republican, Assemblyman Don Guardian, holds a winning record, 2-1, against the South Jersey Democratic machine, the most well-funded political organization in the state.
“My point is that LGBTQ candidates are tough and resilient. When given a chance, LGBTQs have long demonstrated the ability to run and to win,” he continued.
Some Union County notables made the list this year. Union County Commissioner Chairperson Rebecca L. Williams tops this year’s Out 100 Power List. Chosen by her colleagues this year to chair the county board, Williams was administered the oath of leadership by state Senate President Nicholas Scutari. Williams’ goals include better internet connectivity for Union County’s residents, as well as a renewed focus on mental health and social service programs. Prior to serving on the county board, Williams served on the town council in Plainfield.
“Throughout her career, Rebecca Williams has worked admirably to promote progressive and responsible economic policies, expand and conserve public parks, bolster employee protections and enhance local communities,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Her distinguished leadership and advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQIA-plus community in particular is why I selected her as a recipient of the Champions of Equality Award just a few short years ago. Her involvement in honoring transgender icon Marsha P. Johnson — also a native of Union County — with a statue in Elizabeth is just one of the many ways she has worked to honor this vibrant community and its meaningful history.
“Her new role as chair of Union County’s board of county commissioners is well deserved and will facilitate her ongoing efforts to improve the lives of countless Union County residents and members of the LGBTQIA-plus community across our state,” Murphy added.
Coming in at No. 41 is Rahway Councilwoman Danni Newbury, who represents the town’s 5th Ward and also runs the Union County Office of LGBTQ Affairs, the first countywide government-run organization to support the LGBTQ community.
“Danni is the model public servant, the model wife, the model mother to her two beautiful girls, and a model friend to those lucky enough to know her,” Linden Councilman John Francis Roman said. “She continues to be a role model to our youth and to all those she serves as councilwoman in Rahway.”
Among the notable individuals who made the list on the state level is New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, the first openly gay man to serve in a gubernatorial cabinet in New Jersey’s history. Experienced as a toxic injury and brownfields redevelopment lawyer, LaTourette, who took the No. 3 spot on the list, was a newcomer to state government when he joined NJDEP as its top legal counsel in 2018, quickly moving up the agency’s leadership ranks, eventually becoming commissioner in 2021.
“What every last one of us has in common is the environment we share. Red or blue doesn’t matter,” said LaTourette, the father of two who married his longtime partner earlier this year. “It’s all green — if we do it right.”
Coming in at No. 20 is former military officer Brenda “Sue” Fulton, the chairperson and chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Fulton was the first, and for a while the only, LGBTQ cabinet member in the Murphy administration.
Former Gov. Jim McGreevey took the final No. 100 spot.
“Most of us know him as New Jersey’s 52nd governor, but for the 8,500 clients he serves at the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, Jim McGreevy is a mentor and a lifeline helping to end the revolving door of prison recidivism in New Jersey,” according to the list’s biography of McGreevey, who also chairs the Essex County Correctional Facility Civilian Task Force.
Lastly, the list gives an honorary spot to “anyone closeted.”
“Even in the year 2022, the closet remains a lonely, damaging place. With all the recent advances on LGBTQ rights, it’s easy to forget that there’s still plenty of anti-LGBTQ stigma out there,” Insider NJ wrote. “We will always bear witness to that loneliness and suffering on this list.”