New Jersey has finally issued an official apology for the state’s decades-long efforts to crush gay bars, admitting that it is high time to “right this historic wrong.”
For decades, New Jersey law enforcement armed its alcohol laws to systematically target LGBT + venues, from the end of the ban in 1933 until 1967.
A long-awaited apology finally arrived on Tuesday (June 29) at a ceremony near the site of what was once the Paddock Bar before it was closed in a series of raids.
“The attorney general’s office is charged with advancing justice in New Jersey, yet for more than three decades our office has fallen short of responding,” admitted Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
âNow is the time to recognize this failure, apologize for what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We are committed to righting this historic wrong and to strengthening our relationship with the New Jersey LGBTQ + community.
Dozens of gay bars were targeted by the discriminatory raids, which were based on post-prohibition regulations that prohibited liquor licensees from allowing “female identity impersonators” on their premises.
Another rule prohibited businesses from being run “in such a way as to become a nuisance” – a term that included the “congregation of apparent homosexuals,” according to Grewal.
Some LGBT + venues, like the famous Stonewall Inn, have been able to find refuge with organized crime families, but this has opened up guests to a whole new level of exploitation while offering little real protection.
Promising to “right this historic wrong,” Grewal issued a directive to the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control to eliminate a total of 126 actions it took against gay establishments between 1933 and 1967.
Previous âoffendersâ include the owner of the Log Cabin Inn in Newark, which in 1938 was accused allow âfemale imitators and people of bad reputationâ to enter the establishment.
In 1941, another gay bar owner was writing because of the presence of “a group of men whose voices, gestures and actions were effeminate”, who acted in a police manner deemed “totally incompatible with the normal conduct of men”.
Records of all these violations are now accessible to the public via the state website. âWe really have to shine a light on this ugly story,â Grewal said.
The documents will also form the basis of sample lesson plans in New Jersey, which since last year requires public colleges and high schools to teach LGBT + history throughout the curriculum.
“The inhumanity and vitriol in the language were striking to say the least,” said James Graziano, who oversees liquor licensing in New Jersey, addressing the New York Times. âIt is important to have this historic record, so that we can do better.
The alcohol licensing division will also undergo an assessment to determine whether “other communities have been the subject of discriminatory enforcement actions” during its history.
Graziano said his department condemns “the harm done by our agency to members of the LGBTQ + community and offers[s] our sincere apologies to the generations of people affected by this.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also acknowledged the damage these laws have done to so many people and for so long.
âFor too many years, New Jersey has failed to live up to its professed values ââof diversity, inclusion and respect for our LGBTQ + community,â he said in a statement.
âWhile we cannot right the injustices of the past, today’s action by Attorney General Grewal demonstrates our commitment to recognize the harm suffered and to provide support to LGBTQ + residents of New Jersey. “