Mayor Howard Burrell received the LGBTQ+ community’s Pride Award for making Vernon Township a welcoming place for all people.
“I just wanted to give recognition to the mayor for his resolution and support,” said Simone Kraus, vice president of the TriVersity Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity based in Milford, Pa., and a longtime Vernon resident. “Just a simple thank you. The LGBT community appreciates such support. Nothing more, nothing less. Mayor Burrell, first on the council, and then mayor, has a fine career to follow. I am so happy he stood up for Black Lives Matter. He walks the walk. He talks the talk.”
Burrell received his award at a June 17 ceremony in front of the Vernon municipal offices. Kraus praised the mayor for his community support and enthusiasm.
“I have been a resident of this town for 37 years and still reside here in retirement,” Kraus said. “Having this resolution adopted in this town is so affirming. In this corner of New Jersey, it’s hope for every young LGBT person. They can feel part of this community as welcomed residents because of this resolution. And having the recent Supreme Court decision ensures our rights under under Title VII.
“But we are not on an equal playing field yet for the LGBT community. A version of the Equality Act was first introduced in 1974 by Rep Bella Abzug and didn’t pass. The Equality Act was passed by the House and wallowed in the Senate. If passed, it would guarantee us true equality. At that point the marches every June would truly turn into the parade we so wish to have, celebrating our equality in this great country of ours.”
Zoe Heath, executive director of Sussex County Pride, said she started a gay alliance at age 15, while she was still in high school. She said she stood on the shoulders of others who went before her and looked for continued progress for those marginalized in the community. “This visibility is life-giving,” she said.
Heath wrote Vernon’s Pride Resolution (see sidebar).
Mayor Burrell thanked everyone for attending and for striving for equality for all Americans. He reflected on the recent Black Lives Matter protest held in Vernon and his belief that the national Black Lives Matter movement is unstoppable now. At least 40 or 50 percent of the crowd was white, he said.
“I believe the LGBT movement is the next big rally to come to the U.S.,” Burrell said. “Some of us aren’t free unless all of us are free.”
“I believe the LGBT movement is the next big rally to come to the U.S. Some of us aren’t free unless all of us are free.” --Vernon Mayor Howard Burrell