By Patty O’Neill
Long Branch – It was a festive night at White Chapel Project in Long Branch on Sunday night.
The dance room was flashing with colorful lights, DJ Mick Hale blared popular disco sounds from the 70s, and the dance floor was alive with dancers, including drag queens Savannah Georgia, Sheina Kage, and Rhedd Rhum.
The special occasion was the LGBTQ+ community coming together to celebrate equality and diversity by hosting its first-ever “Gimme the Tea: Retro-Style Tea Dance” honoring New Jersey pioneers in the fight for equality. The event was hosted by community activist group “CommUNITY.”
Mayor John Pallone presented guests of honor Emily Sonnessa and Jan Moore with a Certificate of Recognition honoring their 50 years of being together, 5th wedding anniversary, Emily’s 90th birthday and October as LGBTQ+ History Month. Congressman Frank Pallone was also present to celebrate the occasion.
Pallone read that, “As members
of Garden State Equality, Jan and Emily have been pioneers who were part of a social movement of equality that changed the course of history, set the bar for advocacy and have been supportive members of the LBGTQ+ community.”
No longer hidden among the disco crowd, the guests of honor Jan and Emily made their way to the stage to listen to Governor Phil Murphy’s presentation.
“This is a wonderful event and a great cause,” Sonnessa. “I’m just so happy with the progress that has been made.”
Governor Phil Murphy and his wife Tammy showed up to tout New Jersey and sing the couple a happy birthday/anniversary song.
He was invited to the event by Robin Kampf, a Long Branch filmmaker who made the movie Love Wins, about Emily and Jan, the two Ocean Grove women who fell in love 50 years ago when doing so was considered taboo. They were legally married in 2013.
“We were asked by Robin to come out today to help celebrate not only their 50 years together, but also Emily’s 90th birthday,” Murphy told the crowd. “And we said, ‘Hell yeah.”‘
Murphy spoke about how New Jersey has good values for households, respect for the environment, gun safety laws, how it treats our immigrant brothers and sisters, and women’s health. “And we intend to be number one in the American class in all those areas, as well as the environment we provide for the LGBTQ+ Community,” he said.