Justice Brandeis famously observed in his dissent in New State Ice Company v. Liebman that it “is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” 285 U.S. 262, 311 (1932). Few, if any, states have manifested that observation so proficiently and with such far-reaching implications for the advancement of social justice and equity as the Garden State, especially when it comes to LGBTQ civil rights and protections.
The most recent experiment in lawmaking as impactful social engineering furthering those rights and protections is S2545/A4388, the “LGBTQI+ Senior Bill of Rights.” This landmark legislation was signed into law last month by Governor Murphy to define rights and protect older LGBTQI+ residents in New Jersey long-term care facilities. The law, which builds on similar versions adopted in Massachusetts, California and Illinois, passed both the New Jersey Senate and Assembly with only one “no” vote. It prohibits long-term care facilities from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, intersex status, or HIV status. LGBTQ residents of these facilities can no longer be evicted for their sexual orientation or gender identity and must be provided equal medical and non-medical care, among other requirements.