Main | Monday, December 03, 2007

Newark Gay Life: Bleak And Dangerous

Here's why the PATH station on Christopher Street disgorges hordes of LGBT youth every night.

New Jersey has become a national beacon for gay equality. It boasts some of the toughest anti-discrimination laws in the country, and recent legislation makes it one of only three states that recognize same-sex civil unions. Gay marriage, some say, is just around the corner. Across the state, same-sex couples and their children have become integrated into suburban life. But here in the state’s largest city, gay men and lesbians might as well live on another planet.

“You wouldn’t know that Greenwich Village is 10 miles away,” said James Credle, 62, a Vietnam veteran who is working with about a dozen other activists to revive the Newark Pride Alliance, a group established three years ago after a 15-year-old lesbian, Sakia Gunn, was stabbed to death by a man who, the police said, was infuriated that she had rejected his advances. “People here feel like we don’t deserve to be alive.For us, it’s about survival,” Mr. Credle said, “and all this talk of gay marriage is just a luxury.”

The city has no gay community center, no gay pride parade, no established gay organizations; there are no bars devoted exclusively to gay or lesbian clientele. “Newark is like one big closet,” said Ron Saleh, a consultant to the John Edwards presidential campaign, who moved here two years ago. “And there’s nothing going on for gay people. It’s like a desert."

Remember this story the next time you feel like complaining about those noisy kids in the Village.

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