A New Jersey township mayor has launched a campaign to repeal a law requiring schools to teach the contributions of LGBTQ people as part of history classes, saying the law infringes on parents’ rights and crosses the line into “absurdity.”
Barnegat Township Mayor Alfonso Cirulli launched a campaign earlier this week aimed at repealing a measure that was signed into law in January by Gov. Phil Murphy (D). The law requires middle and high school curricula, starting in the fall of 2020, to include instruction of the political, economic, and social contributions of people with disabilities or who are LGBTQ. The premise behind the law is that, if they are taught about the contributions of members of minority groups to society, students will see a place for LGBTQ individuals and others and will be less likely to bully or harass them.
On Tuesday, during the Township Committee’s morning meeting, Cirulli, a 60-year-old former assistant principal, said it was his duty to protect residents and called the LGBTQ political movement “an affront to almighty God.” He encouraged residents to put public pressure on state lawmakers and the governor to repeal the law.
“As an educator, I know kids — 35 years of kids. And they crossed a line,” Cirulli said. “The state crossed a line, even if they were well-intentioned.”
“The government has no right to teach our kids morality,” he added, charging that the law violates parental rights, freedom of speech, and amounts to the indoctrination of children, reports the Asbury Park Press.
“We’ve crossed over the line into absurdity,” Cirulli said.
The mayor also lamented the legalization of same-sex marriage as the work of “progressive politicians” and said God would hold those lawmakers accountable for their actions.
While Cirulli’s comments were largely met with silence, some residents later criticized them during the public comment section of the meeting.
“This is a public forum where I felt like I was in church,” said Briget Nunn, a Barnegat resident and mental health clinician who counsels LGBTQ youth.
“I understand that everyone is entitled to their belief and their religious ideas, … but what I have a problem with is when you bring them into a public forum,” Nunn said. “As public officials … you have to be careful about what message you’re sending to these kids I’m counseling, who are already in your schools feeling like they’re isolated, alone and not getting the support they need.”
Others suggested that Cirulli was abusing his power to carry out a personal agenda — something he vehemently denies.
Cirulli told New Jersey News 12 that he knew he would receive criticism for his comments, but believes it’s important to get out his message so people can petition their representatives to repeal the law. And for the time that the law remains on the books, he’s demanding the public have a say in what will be included in the curriculum, which is still being drafted.
“They basically did it…and jammed it down everybody’s throats before you even know what’s in it,” Cirulli said of lawmakers in Trenton.
But Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, told News 12 that the law is being misunderstood — and in some cases, deliberately misrepresented.
“There’s going to be an LGBTQ class. It’s going to be interwoven through all the relevant subject areas,” Fuscarino said. “In other states where this curriculum is used, we’ve seen rates of bullying go down by nearly 50%.
“Unfortunately, bigotry still exists,” he said, “but it’s important we still have these conversations with each other so we can build bridges and have a better understanding of why it’s not scary that someone is different than yourself.”