Earlier this month, Garden State Equality, which is fighting for marriage equality in New Jersey, closed its Cherry Hill office and opened a larger location in nearby Collingswood.
The organization had opened the doors to its Cherry Hill locale in February 2008. Steven Goldstein, Garden State Equality executive director, said although the new office is just a few miles from the previous location, it will enable the organization to more effectively reach out to South Jersey’s growing LGBT community.
“Garden State Equality was one of the few statewide organizations in New Jersey to open up a South Jersey office at all, and our growth in South Jersey was so huge that we both needed a bigger office and one in the heart of where the LGBT population is,” Goldstein said. “By being in the most LGBT-populous community in South Jersey, we’re now taking advantage of the general population boom among the LGBT community across all of South Jersey.”
Goldstein noted that the organization’s South Jersey contingent has become as active as its headquarters in Montclair, in North Jersey, and accordingly needed a large-enough space to accommodate such events as volunteer-organizing and phonebank nights.
Goldstein said the new office, located in the first floor of a downtown Collingswood building, has already received a good deal of foot traffic from passersby inquiring about the organization.
Leslie Green, 25, will direct the office and will be joined by organizer Nick Halsted.
Green, who is bisexual, moved to the Garden State to take up the new position after having lent her LGBT-advocacy skills to the No on 8 campaign in California, which worked to defeat Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state, which voters passed in November.
Green said she was drawn to the position because of what she sees as the very real “prospect of winning” the fight for same-sex marriage in New Jersey.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “This is going to be the year in New Jersey, and hopefully in Maine too, that we’re going to get marriage for the LGBT community.”
Green said she’s eager to expand the South Jersey volunteer base so that Garden State Equality can redouble its efforts to lobby lawmakers on same-sex marriage.
Goldstein noted that several of the lawmakers whose votes will be integral to the passage of a marriage-equality bill in New Jersey are located in South Jersey, and that the new office will play a crucial role in securing favorable votes for such legislation.
“Our growth in South Jersey dovetails nicely with our need to pay extra attention to South Jersey in that several key legislators in the marriage-equality battle are from South Jersey. So we’re very excited about the Collingswood office, and so far it’s been spectacular.”
Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected].