October 28, 2009
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NEWARK - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) announced the resolution of a dispute involving two women who were turned away from a fundraising dance hosted by the organization. The women claimed they and their friends were excluded based on their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Towana Christopher

"We are grateful that the matter is settled, but even more, we are grateful that this resolution promises to help other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals," stated Cheryl Rogers who, along with her partner Towana Christopher, claim that they and friends were not welcomed at a NOBLE sponsored fundraising dance held in April in Edison, NJ. "While no one should have to face discrimination, we are glad that our experience can lead to stronger ties and greater understanding between police officers and the LGBT community."

While NOBLE did not concede that any act of discrimination occurred, the two groups resolved the dispute amicably, with each gaining a better understanding of the other's views. NOBLE will extend outreach to the lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual (LGBT) community, and the complainants have agreed to not to pursue any legal action. Both parties expressed an interest to move forward with a strong commitment to equal rights.

"NOBLE understands the destructive power of discrimination, and we handle every complaint with the seriousness it deserves," said Jessie Lee, Jr., NOBLE's National Executive Director. "We welcome this resolution as a way to help better educate all New Jerseyans about their right to be free from discrimination."

NOBLE, recognizing the pivotal role of law enforcement in building ties with the LGBT community, has agreed to expand its outreach by appearing at events to educate the LGBT community about hate crimes laws and bias crimes. The organization will also post a statement on its website each June - to coincide with Pride Month - expressing its support for equal treatment from law enforcement regardless of anyone's sexual orientation or gender expression.

"We are proud that this resolution creates an opportunity for police officers to build a bridge with the LGBT community," stated ACLU-NJ Legal Director Ed Barocas, who represented the two women. "This resolution helps not only the women involved, but the rights of all members of the LGBT community."

NOBLE, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, was founded in 1976 with a mission to ensure equity in the administration of justice in the provision of public service to all communities, and to serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.

The ACLU-NJ, based in Newark, implements legal, legislative and public education programs in conjunction with large numbers of volunteers to advance the ACLU's goals of liberty and justice for all.

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