Woodbury, N.J., officials are vowing to repeal an obscure anti-cross-dressing law on the books that recently was brought to their attention. Although the law isn’t enforced by police, violators face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In an email, Woodbury Mayor Jessica M. Floyd said she expects the ordinance will be repealed shortly.
“In recent months, we have received overwhelming support in response to our efforts to become a city that not only accepts diversity, we actively promote it,” Floyd said.
“The city of Woodbury has been hard at work to create a safe and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community,” she added. “We recently passed a number of ordinances to support our efforts, including forming a Human Rights Commission. The new commission will advise the city on new policies needed to improve our endeavors and will tackle existing policies that are potentially harmful to our minority communities. These efforts will assure our residents, visitors, employees and business owners that Woodbury takes great pride in being a welcoming and accepting community to all.”
Floyd added: “Certainly, something so antiquated and ridiculous as the ‘anti-cross-dressing policy’ will be one of the first to go. I was embarrassed to learn that it was reaffirmed in 2005. Unfortunately, that was a different time in Woodbury and not at all an accurate depiction of the current climate of Woodbury. I am grateful this has been brought to my attention. The city of Woodbury encourages our community to get involved to help us improve in all capacities.”
Married couple David J. Root Jr. and Frank L Lampe 3d have lived in Woodbury for about eight years. They’ve met many supportive people in the city but say they’ve also experienced anti-LGBT harassment and abuse.
Root attended a Woodbury City Council meeting Oct. 10 and expressed concern about the town’s anti-cross-dressing law, among other issues.
“The city should be doing a better job ensuring that LGBT people feel safe in Woodbury,” Root told PGN. “If you’re going to urge us to come and spend money in this town, make sure the LGBT community feels protected.”
He dubbed Woodbury’s anti-cross-dressing law “obsolete” and called for its immediate repeal.
“How can the LGBT community feel properly safe and protected in Woodbury when this law is still on the books?” Root posed.
Root, 55, and Lampe, 59, said they want to enjoy their single-family home in peace.
“We’ve been physically accosted, verbally accosted and our house has been vandalized twice,” said Root. “A youth exposed himself to my husband in June after giving him the finger.
“We have been putting up with this [harassment] for eight years, getting progressively worse year by year. We don’t bother anyone and we just want to be left alone.”
Root said he has reached out to Woodbury police for help on numerous occasions, with less than satisfactory results.
“They give us lip service,” he continued. “But talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is. There’s no increased police patrol, no nothing.”
Woodbury Police Chief Thomas R. Ryan issued this statement:
“Whenever Mr. Root has raised concerns, the police department and the city have been receptive, responsive and diligently investigated and documented each incident. Mr. Root sat down with the previous [police] chief and city administrator a few years ago and recently with the current administrator and myself to discuss his concerns. During both meetings, Mr. Root voiced his concerns and in response the city has added extra patrols in the area with focus on the times that were indicated to be most at issue.”
Ryan added: “The city and the Woodbury Police Department are committed to taking a proactive approach to ensure our LGBTQ community and our citizens at-large live in a community where harassment is not tolerated and diversity is encouraged. To this end, I would welcome any input or suggestions to assist the Woodbury City Police Department in addressing both Mr. Root’s and the LGBTQ community’s concerns.”
Anthony Doran, president of Woodbury Community Pride, praised Woodbury officials’ receptivity to LGBT issues.
“Right now, we are about the future,” Doran said in an email. “We are about progress. And the progress is happening pretty quickly in Woodbury. My first meeting with the city was in February, and we have made enormous strides forward.”
Doran added: “As for the ordinance, it’s ridiculous and it has to go. Period. Hard stop. I am confident our city leadership will rescind it as soon as possible.”
Root said he’ll continue to monitor the situation until the ordinance is repealed.