As the Supreme Court reconvenes this week, a landmark LGBTQ+ rights case is scheduled to be heard that would determine if employers have the right to terminate an employee on the basis of sexual orientation, sexual identity, or being transgender. This comes after the Trump administration argued that “gay workers are not protected by federal civil rights law” in a new interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
While it may seem that this issue is very far away and has no impact on Somerset County, this case will affect the employment for many citizens throughout the area. The current Freeholder Deputy Director, Pat Walsh, has a record of bigotry and discrimination toward our LGBTQ+ community. As Mayor of Green Brook, Walsh continually refused to perform same-sex civil unions. It was also discovered that one of Walsh’s appointees to the Board of Trustees at Raritan-Valley Community College, Dr. Felicia Nace, is an anti-LGBTQ+ activist who participated in the Boston Straight Pride rally where she attacked public schools for including LGBTQ+ education in their curriculum.
It’s been twenty-three days since this news broke and Walsh has yet to condemn Nace’s comments or call for her resignation despite public outrage from members of the faculty and student body, many of whom are Walsh’s constituents. What’s worse is that in May, Walsh led the Somerset County Freeholder Board in taking a pledge to “stand up for the other and speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.” The fact that Walsh refuses to live up to her own pledge shows the LGBTQ+ community and the voters of Somerset County that she couldn’t care less about being a leader for those who need it most. Democratic Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano has a long history of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. As Mayor of Green Brook in 2009, she performed the town’s first same-sex civil union. Most recently, Marano has called for Nace’s resignation and an end the appointment of bigots to public positions.
New Jersey is home to some of the most progressive LGBTQ+ protections in the country and the Trump administration is actively trying to undermine these protections while Pat Walsh and the Somerset County GOP look on. They do not represent New Jersey values. Their refusal to live up to their own pledge and condemn Nace’s hate speech or Trump’s policies show a history of being complicit in the spread of bigotry and discrimination. Can we trust Pat Walsh to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community in Somerset County should the Supreme Court reverse the ruling and allow for the discrimination of employees based on sexual orientation and identity? The answer is no. A vote for Pat Walsh is a vote for Donald Trump.
Article detailing the Supreme Court Case: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/us/politics/supreme-court-fired-gay.html?module=inline
Supreme Court Case brief: https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/18/18-107/112655/20190816163010995_18-107bsUnitedStates.pdf
Somerset County Freeholder Pledge: https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/Home/Components/News/News/3108/17