Election day in the US is November 5 and as we get closer to that day there is much greater awareness and political debate about the future of the LGBTQ community, and most important the impact these elections will have for gay students in public schools, and efforts to justify discrimination against those who identify as LGBTQ. This is most relevant for elections in the State of New Jersey, which has a mandate to respect gender identity in public schools, but where school districts throughout the state are trying to eliminate that mandate so they can continue their policies and practices which discriminate against LGBTQ students.
In addition to school board elections there is also an election for members of the State Senate and State Assembly. Though New Jersey is nominally a blue state, in mostly white suburban and rural districts Republicans are running on a platform that calls for repeal of the state mandate, and allow school districts to continue discrimination against gay and transgender students. Just as Southern states in the 1950s and 1960s echoed “state’s rights” in opposing federal laws that prohibit discrimination, Republicans in New Jersey are running on a platform of “parent’s rights” which would not only repeal the state anti-discrimination mandate but would require parental notification of a student’s gender identity at school no matter what the circumstances may be. Such a policy promoted by Republicans would endanger those transgender students who may have abusive parents who would rather punish their children for expressing their own gender identification, than respect their child’s sexual preference and identity.
In some districts Republican, homophobic school board members have already been successful in refusing to implement the state mandate which is part of the new sex education curriculum approved by the State Board of Education. The new curriculum promotes diversity. tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ students, and protects them from bullying and harassment in school because of their gender identification. This is why elections for school board this year are more important than they have ever been before.
In one New Jersey school district the election for school board is very competitive. Though nominally nonpartisan, candidates opposed to the state curriculum are mostly pro-Trump Republican voters, while their opponents tend to be more moderate independents and Democrats who accept the new curriculum. This is the same town where the former Mayor, who opposes the curriculum, once publicly proclaimed at a town meeting where he was presiding that homosexuals were “an affront to Almighty God”. Just a few weeks ago, in this same town, homophobic bigots were successful in repealing the new curriculum which resulted in a failure to pass the school budget so that the school year could start as planned. Eventually, the curriculum did pass in order to have a new budget and start the school year. However, the extremist reactionary bigots are running again this year for school board so that they can increase their numbers and pass additional rules and regulations that would make implementation of the new curriculum more difficult.
Even more important for New Jersey to implement its new state mandate for the LGBTQ curriculum are elections this year for state legislature, state assembly and state senate. Presently New Jersey has a Democratic legislature and a progressive Democratic Governor whose administration initiated the new curriculum. However, there have been various attempts by Republicans in the state legislature to overturn the mandate, and they have gotten some support from conservative Democrats who represent competitive, mostly predominantly white, rural and suburban districts. Popular opinion polls also show that a significant majority of voters support modification or complete removal of the curriculum. So far, Republicans campaigning for legislature have been successful in campaigning on the issue of “parent’s rights”, especially required notification of parents when a child at school declares their own gender-identity.
Some polls and surveys have shown that “parent’s rights” and “parental “notification” are the most important issues of the campaign, and so far it seems to favor Republicans.
All over America groups and organizations are mobilizing to fight any protections for LGBTQ students in public schools. The best known and influential is a group calling itself “Moms For Liberty” which serves to promote repression of and discrimination against LGBTQ students using the platform emphasizing “parent’s rights” the same way opponents of civil rights legislation used “state’s rights” to justify their repression of minorities. New Jersey gets the most attention because of its specialized curriculum and state mandate to protect LGBTQ students, and the state has become “Ground Zero” for the fight to preserve tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
The biggest reason homophobic bigots and reactionary Republicans have been successful in gaining public support for their agenda is the enormous amount of misinformation and lies they spread throughout social media. Groups like “Moms For Liberty” have successfully been able to spread all kinds of homophobic propaganda all over the internet, setting up websites and groups to influence others to oppose any kind of tolerance for the LGBTQ community. They have specifically targeted school board members to influence their opposition to any kind of curriculum in public schools to promote tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ students. For example, in one New Jersey school district, a school board member explained her vote against the LGBTQ curriculum, “I will never vote for an oversexualized curriculum where anal sex and masturbation will be discussed with children. If this passes the next push will be pedophilia and bestiality. I won’t be part of that.”
As election day in America gets closer, the homophobic propaganda is getting more attention from voters, especially in New Jersey, and local races for school board and state legislature are more important than ever before. “Off year elections” generally have a very low turnout which means that for the LGBTQ community turnout from moderate and progressive voters, those who support the LGBTQ community, becomes essential. A victory for groups like “Moms For Liberty” and homophobic reactionary Republicans, especially control for the state legislature, will have a devastating impact on the LGBTQ community. The greatest danger, not only in New Jersey but all over the US, is that even moderate politicians will become fearful of the consequences for supporting the LGBTQ community. For this year, the elections in New Jersey will set an example for the rest of the country.
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