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New Jersey Issues Formal Apology For Closing Gay Bars In The Garden State

New Jersey Issues Formal Apology For Closing Gay Bars In The Garden State

On Tuesday, during the final week of Pride Month, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) formally apologized for the state's decades-long efforts to close LGBTQ bars.

From the end of Prohibition in 1933 to 1967, when a state Supreme Court decision put an end to the practice, the agency used its liquor licensing division to systematically target gay bars, according to Grewel, who described those three decades as “an ugly moment in the history of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.”

In order to “right this historical wrong,” Grewal said, the Garden State will now vacate 126 enforcement actions that suspended or revoked liquor licenses of establishments that served LGBTQ patrons more than 50 years ago.

All of the violations' records are now public on the state's website.

In New Jersey and many other states across the country, bars faced having their liquor licenses revoked for serving people who did not hide their nonconforming gender identity or sexual orientation. (Some establishments could find safe harbor with organized crime families, who saw a lucrative moneymaking opportunity.)

For example, in 1938, the owner of Newark's Log Cabin Inn was accused of allowing "female impersonators and persons of ill repute" into the establishment, and in 1941, another bar was closed due to the presence of "a group of men whose voices, gestures, and actions were effeminate," and who acted in a manner "entirely inconsistent with the normal conduct of men."

“For far too long, New Jersey has failed to live up to its professed values of diversity, inclusion, and respect when it comes to our LGBTQ+ community,” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in a statement Tuesday.

“While we cannot undo the wrongs of the past, Attorney General Grewal’s action today demonstrates our commitment to acknowledging the harms that have been done and acting to support New Jersey’s LGBTQ+ residents,” Murphy said.

The liquor licensing division will also be investigated to see if “any other communities were subject to discriminatory enforcement actions” in the past. James Graziano, who oversees liquor licensing in New Jersey, stated that the division condemns “the harm our agency caused to members of the LGBTQ+ community and offers[s] our sincere apologies to the generations of individuals impacted by this.”

New Jersey's apology comes two years after its neighbor across the Hudson River apologized for the historic 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn. The New York Police Department's actions "were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize," Commissioner James O'Neill said in 2019.

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