1992: After a long legislative fight, NJ’s Law Against Discrimination
was amended to prohibit discrimination based on “affectional
or sexual” orientation. To celebrate, the New Jersey Lesbian &
Gay Coalition, instrumental in the passage of the amended LAD,
established a parade committee with the idea of organizing a statewide
pride celebration within NJ’s borders’ No longer would pride
revelers need to cross bridges to the north (into New York City)
or the South (into Philadelphia). Winner of a long search process,
Asbury Park was chosen as the quintessential “Jersey” location for
New Jersey’s 1st Pride Parade, Rally, Festival, and Concert. Then
up-and-coming comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer emceed the
entire day. An estimated 1500 people attended Pride this first year.
A giant pink triangle balloon led the parade.
1993: Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the
National March on Washing for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Equal
Rights. Building on the success of NJ’s 1st Pride Celebration the
previous year, the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition (NJLGC)
once again produced the state’s annual Pride Celebration in Asbury
Park on the first Saturday in June. The theme that year? United in
Pride: Diverse by Nature.
1994: Pride: the Wave of the Future celebrated Stonewall 25.
And after three successful years of producing Pride, the parade
committee of NJLGC decided to spin off as an independent
organization, incorporating as Jersey Pride, Inc. The new group’s
first official act was to produce a second pride event in October
1994 to commemorate National Coming Out Day. The celebration
was held at the Garden State Arts Center, and in keeping with other
festivals produced there, the giant Art Center Sign at Exit 116 on
the Garden State Parkway proudly, loudly broadcast the news: “Gay,
Lesbian, and Bisexual Cultural Heritage Festival”. Republican
Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed the first proclamation
for National Coming Out Day in New Jersey. Later that year, a
news story that ran just before the holidays touched the hearts of
the nascent group. A modern scrooge had stolen the presents from
St. Clare’s Home for Children and the youngsters were facing a
very bleak holiday. To respond, Jersey Pride began what a holiday
tradition – “Toys for Kids with AIDS” – that lasted more than two
1995: New Jersey’s Pride celebration officially added Transgender to
its title. Doug Stevens and the Outband anchored the rally stage.
1996: “Reflecting our Pride” was the theme in 1996. Five years of
Jersey Pride. The rally this year was the first to feature a national
headliner, dance sensation Black Box. One pride attendee was
overheard remarking “after five years, it’s hard to remember that
celebrating Pride Month for New Jerseyans once meant only
choosing between celebrations in New York and Philadelphia. The
Jersey Gaze, Jersey Pride’s Pride Guide, launched a short-lived
venture as a quarterly publication.
1997: Ellen’s historic coming out show happened on April 30th
and Jersey Pride was proud to feature Ellen on our Jersey Gaze
magazine for June Pride. We added a beach party and ball to our
pride weekend events. Long a member of North East Regional
Pride (NERP), Jersey Pride hosted the annual NERP conference
in Somerset, NJ to much acclaim from our peers. And Jersey Pride
co-produced, with Jersey City Connections and the Community
Awareness Project, Jersey City’s First Pride Festival.
1998: Election 1998 was a year to focus on the growing clout of
gay/lesbian voters and the organizations they support. Toward that
end, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force produced a report
in September 1998 entitled Out and Voting about our growing
influence in the world of politics. Disco diva Crystal Waters
headlined pride and the parade included the first mobile display of
the AIDS quilt.
1999: In the spring of 1999, national organizer Urvashi Vaid’s
brainchild “Equality Begins at Home” introduced the first
nationwide action focused on state organizing and the legislative
activities in all 50 state capitals. NJ’s action, organized by the New
Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, included a lobby day in Trenton,
and a series of talks, vigils, and other events that showcased the
breadth of legislative progress in NJ. Jersey Pride produced a
special issue of The Jersey Gaze to commemorate this action. The
year also marked the onset of our ongoing partnership with the
NAMES Project by hosting NJ’s largest annual outdoor display
of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as part of the pride celebration. The
Renaissance Transgender Association recognized Jersey Pride for
our “stalwart and courageous commitment to the inclusion of
all people of transgender experience in all pride activities”. The
NCOD festival faced its greatest weather challenge as torrents
of rain nearly washed away the event. More than 500 stalwart
attendees braved the elements, coming out despite the rain.
2000: Jersey Pride’s parade departed from its usual route, staging
in the park on Main St and Sunset. Remarkable to this route,
parade-goers crossed the Sunset Lake Bridge heading south, turned
on Asbury Ave, and the vehicles and marchers split when they
reached Ocean Ave with marchers finishing the parade on the
boardwalk. The parade route wasn’t the only departure from the
norm. Domestic Partnership, Civil Union, and Marriage Equality
were phrases working their way into the vernacular of NJ legislative
initiatives. And nationally, the exposure was equally remarkable.
Lesbians and gay men figured more prominently than ever before at
the Democratic National Convention this year.
2001: A Pride Odyssey. Jersey Pride celebrated ten years of Pride at
the Jersey Shore. Police estimated attendance at 5000.
2002: Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in June 2002 against the state of
New Jersey arguing that limiting marriage to a man and a woman
was against the New Jersey State Constitution. The Jersey Gaze
featured Sharon Gless, a star of the popular show Queer as Folk,
who spoke out about her career and her from-the-heart portrayal
of a mother of a gay child. The Family Zone became an integral
and defining element of the Pride festival. And when the Trenton
community decided to expand their annual pride picnic into a
pride festival, Jersey Pride partnered with them to produce the first
Capital Rainbowfest in Mill Hill Park.
2003: “All Roads Lead to Justice” in NJ’s fight for same sex
marriage. From January to June, Lambda Legal built support
for their legal case through a series of town halls – one of which
was held in conjunction with Jersey Pride during pride weekend
– while the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition worked with
local organizers and elected officials to pursue domestic partner
legislation. Jersey Pride and the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay
Coalition debuted the traveling museum, a display of historic
artifacts from NJ’s GLBT community.
2004: New Jersey passed Domestic Partnership legislation. In
April, the LGBT community joined over a million people in the
March for Women’s Lives in Washington, DC, a march and rally
supporting women’s reproductive freedom. Attendance at the pride
Celebration continued to grow, and dynamic headline performances
by Taylor Dayne and Sophie B. Hawkins helped propel the crowd
2005: The Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey
released a new poll – 70% of those polled favored enactment of
pending legislation that would protect transgender people from
discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations.
2006: The New Jersey Supreme Court forced the New Jersey
Legislature to rethink marriage equality for same sex couples, after
striking down the domestic partnership law passed in 2003 as not
true equality in line with the New Jersey Constitution. In December
2006, the legislature passed a Civil Union Bill that also recognized
other states’ civil unions.
2007: The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously ruled that
students who are bullied because of their sexual orientation must
be protected by the anti-discrimination law and schools must
act in a reasonable way to prevent such harassment. By popular
demand, Jersey Pride once again hosted the North East Regional
Pride (NERP) Conference, this time in Capy May. More than 75
participants from 18 pride committees enjoyed the conference.
2008: Freeheld won the Oscar for Best Documentary. This movie
tells the story of Detective Lt. Laurel Hester, an Ocean County
prosecutor’s investigator, who, while fighting lung cancer, was
also fighting the Ocean County Freeholders to allow her benefits
to accrue to her same sex civil union partner. In 2008, several
decisions were made in favor of a lesbian couple who sued the
Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for refusing to allow
their rental of a pavilion on the beachfront for their civil union
ceremony. The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights agreed that the
Camp Meeting had violated the public accommodations provisions
of the state’s Law Against Discrimination.
2009: On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed into law the
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention
Act, which allows the Department of Justice to investigate and
prosecute hate crimes motivated by various enumerated reasons,
which include sexual orientation nand gender identity. Jersey Pride
added the Zen Zone as a feature at the festival, which included an
open mic, yoga, and other wellness activities.
2010: Although the policy was not immediately repealed, President
Obama, in December, signed a bill implementing the eventual
repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the policy banning gays and
lesbians from openly serving in the US military. And on the
Jersey Pride front, a tornado warning didn’t deter festival-goers as
attendance at the 2010 Pride Celebration topped 20,000.
2011: Jersey Pride turned 20 this year. As with other major
anniversaries, it was a year of reflection. Lisa Lisa and Kristine W.
headlined the rally. The AIDS epidemic hit the thirty year mark,
without an end in sight.
2012: President Obama announced, during an ABC news interview
“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” This
followed then Vice-President Biden’s casual assertion that he was
completely comfortable with gay marriage. Superstorm Sandy
pounded New Jersey, although Jersey Pride’s host town of Asbury
Park was spared much of the worst of the damage.
2013: Kathy Sledge and Alex Newell led a dynamic and well
received rally stage. The parade continued to grow.
2014: New Jersey was increasingly isolated as it was surrounded by
marriage equality states.
2015: Pride grows around the state as Jersey City Pride enjoys
it 15th event, North Jersey Pride hosts their pride celebration
in Maplewood, and South Jersey Pride hosts their event in
2016: Jersey Pride turned 25 this year, and marked the major
milestone with Jordan Sparks headlining the rally. Locals got into
the festivities and parties abounded all through Asbury Park during
2017: In April, Jersey Pride and Garden State Equality co-produced
a statewide advocacy conference – United.
2018: La Bouche returned to Jersey Pride’s stage this year. The
parade got so big that it began splitting the city; marchers were still
lined up waiting to step off when the parade began arriving at the
2019: Comedienne Sandra Valls emceed a stage anchored by France
Joli. The parade was the largest on record, with 80 contingents
registered in advance.
2020: Early planning meetings for Pride were held at the GSE
office in Asbury Park in late winter. Then…lockdown. Initially,
our hope was that we would still be able to host our event. As
April lasted for the better part of three months, it became apparent
we could not hold an in person event. We pivoted to produce, in
conjunction with Garden State Equality, our first virtual pride: a two
hour event with performances, interviews, and bonhomie.
2021: Jersey Pride’s gap year. Once again, we hoped that we would
be able to produce an in person pride celebration. Unfortunately,
restrictions on outdoor gatherings extended into the beginning of
June, and by October, when we considered holding the event to
coincide with National Coming Out Day, upticks in infections and
slow vaccination levels squashed our dreams.
2022: This year marks 30 years of Jersey Pride bringing Pride
Celebrations to the Garden State. But we are not the only
organization with that many years of service under our belt. The
Pride Center of New Jersey, sharing a similar origin story to Jersey
Pride, heads into its 31st year. And turning 50 this year, the Gay
Activists Alliance of Morris County (GAAMC) started a scant three
years after the Stonewall Rebellion and Riots in New York City.
Commemorating our momentous anniversary, Jersey Pride released
a new logo and new website.