Montclair Gets Perfect Score on 2022 Municipal Equality Index

Montclair, NJ – Today, The Human Rights Campaign released the 2022 Municipal Equality Index for communities across the United States. Montclair once again stands out as an exception in New Jersey and across the country by achieving a perfect score of 100.

“With the changes in law and policy that we enacted at the Council level in 2021 and the explosion of programming administered by Out Montclair over the last two years, we have reshaped the lived-equality experience for LGBTQ+ people in Montclair,” said Montclair Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis who also serves as Executive Director of Out Montclair. “But we’re far from done. As of today the Township still does not offer transgender specific healthcare to Township employees nor do we offer any kind of direct services to people living with HIV/AIDS or unhoused LGBTQ+ individuals. I also want to see us develop and enact an anti bullying law which would require bullying prevention policy and workforce training standards for entities receiving monies from the Township.”

Montclair joins Jersey City, Hoboken, and Princeton and for the first time — Lambertville, as the five qualifying municipalities in the State of New Jersey to achieve this score. Last year the Montclair Township Council enacted a sweeping LGBTQ+ Equality Agenda led by Montclair Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis, the township’s first-ever openly LGBTQ+ elected official. That agenda successfully enacted new laws to protect people on the basis of gender identity and expression in township procurement and hiring practices and required that all single-user restrooms in the Township be designated as gender neutral. The effort also included designating a LGBTQ+ Community Liaison at Town Hall, re-affirming the state’s ban on conversion therapy, flying a progress pride flag at Town Hall and supporting LGBTQ+ teens and seniors with public programming.

Additionally, with the creation of Out Montclair which specifically supports teens and seniors (among other groups), the Township received additional credit in the scoring for the programming. Yacobellis’ 2020 election to the Township Council and the government’s overall support of the LGBTQ+ community led to the receipt of additional qualifying points as well.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the United States and annually scores towns, cities, corporations and other institutions on their efforts to create inclusive and safe environments for the LGBTQ+ community. Previous scores for Montclair were as follows: 2021: 100; 2020: 78; 2019: 71; 2018: 58.

“Sometimes we elected officials get credit for carrying the baton across the finish line. But I want to be clear that this has been a years-long relay. In no particular order I must thank the people responsible for sparking this journey: former Council Member Renee Baskerville, Civil Rights Commission Members Madeline Gale and Reubena Spence and members of the Unitarian Universalist congregation like Maria Towe, Eileen Birmingham and David Sailer who saw this as a red flag years ago and embarked on an effort to work with our township staff and government to move the needle,” said Yacobellis.

“I also want to thank several specific Montclair Township employees: Officer Glenda Rivera for her work as the Montclair Police Department LGBTQ+ Community Liaison and Bruce Morgan, our Affirmative Action Officer and LGBTQ+ Community Liaison and their colleagues who have been leading this work for years. I also want to thank my colleagues on the Council who supported the bulk of what created improvement here.”

Montclair Pride 2022. Photo: Chloe Apple Seldman

Last year, Yacobellis along with Gale and Spence and other community leaders including Peter Holm and Bill Courson, started Out Montclair – a community organization dedicated to creating community and raising awareness for LGBTQ+ people living in and around Montclair which hosted Montclair’s first-ever LGBTQ+ Pride festival which drew a staggering 14,500 people in attendance. The Board of Out Montclair includes a diverse group of local leaders united in the effort to bring full lived equality to the community.

“Garden State Equality is incredibly proud of Montclair for receiving a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Municipal Equality Index. We particularly want to applaud the leadership of Council Member Peter Yacobellis, the town’s first LGBTQ+ elected official in enacting a comprehensive set of laws and policies over the last 18 months that resulted in this score,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “Our further thanks to Montclair Mayor Sean Spiller and the other members of the Town Council who unequivocally supported these efforts.”

“This is a terrific moment for Montclair and in particular our LGBTQ+ community. I commend all of those who have fought for full equality under the law for all people and saw through the enactment of multiple changes to law and policy in the Township. In particular I want to thank Dr. Renee Baskerville, MD, and two of my fellow Civil Rights Commissioners, Madeline Gale and Reubena Spence, for their unyielding efforts to raise awareness and push for change. I also want to thank Councilor Peter Yacobellis who showed why having a seat at the table truly matters,” said Christa Rapoport, Chair, Montclair Civil Rights Commission.

Full Scorecard can be viewed here: https://hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/MEI-2022-Montclair-New-Jersey.pdf

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