WASHINGTON — In a sign of the rapidly changing landscape for LGBT rights, the head of New Jersey’s LGBT group is heading home to run a similar group in the state of Oklahoma.
In an email to be sent to supporters Wednesday morning, Garden State Equality’s Troy Stevenson writes, “On Sunday, January 26, I will be stepping down as executive director of Garden State Equality to take over as the executive director of The Equality Network in my home state of Oklahoma.”
In a statement provided to BuzzFeed, Stevenson explained the move, announced a day after a federal judge in Oklahoma struck down the state’s amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.
“Leading Garden State Equality has been the highlight of my career. I have come to love my adopted state of New Jersey almost as much as my home state of Oklahoma, and say goodbye with a heavy heart. But I feel the time has come for me to return home and fight for my fellow Oklahoman’s just as I have for New Jersey. I have the upmost confidence in the GSE team, and know that I could not be leaving the organization in better hands,” he said.
Regarding the timing, he added, “This move has been long planned, but yesterday’s court decision, overturning the marriage ban in Oklahoma, has left me overjoyed at the opportunity to help bring about the same kind of change, in Oklahoma, that GSE has brought to New Jersey.”
John Mikytuck, currently the managing director at Garden State Equality, will serve as the group’s interim executive director.
Stevenson had been the managing director of Garden State Equality before taking on the role of executive director in January 2013.
Among the advances sought by Garden State Equality during that time were legislative passage of the Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Ban (so-called conversion therapy), which Gov. Chris Christie signed in to law, as well as the passage by the legislature of a bill that would have made it easier for transgender people to change the gender markers on their birth certificates, which Christie vetoed this week. Garden State Equality was also a key part of both legislative and legal efforts to advance, and eventually secure, marriage equality in New Jersey.
As executive director of The Equality Network, Stevenson said his focus will be leading the public education campaign in response to Tuesday’s marriage ruling, as well as working to bring employment protections, safe schools legislation and transgender protections to Oklahoma.