December 14, 2022

Local LGBTQ+ Liaison Welcomes Same-Sex Marriage Rights Bill

By Anne Levin

On the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday afternoon, President Biden held a ceremony in which he signed the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan bill that protects same-sex and interracial marriages.

The legislation passed both chambers of Congress last Thursday with 12 Republican senators and 39 Republican members of the House siding with the Democrats to support the bill. In a statement, Biden said the legislation “will give peace of mind to millions of LGBTQ+ and interracial couples.”

Among them are Princeton residents Nick DiDomizio and Robby Pagels, who were married at their apartment four years ago by then-Mayor Liz Lempert. But this is not the time to sit back, said DiDomizio, who is the LGBTQ+ liaison to the municipality of Princeton, treasurer of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), and secretary of the town’s Civil Rights Commission.

“Obviously I’m very appreciative of this added protection, but there is more to do,” he said this week. “We have to keep fighting.”

DiDomizio is project manager at Evotec, a drug discovery and development firm.  Pagels is the director of research and development at Optimeus, a chemical engineering company. The two met at the University of Delaware and moved to Princeton in 2015. They married after being together for eight years.

“Marriage equality had recently passed in New Jersey, and the decision at the Supreme Court was also recent,” said DiDomizio. “We just made this decision to have a civil wedding. We had reached out to Liz to see if she’d marry us in our apartment, and she was happy to do it. We had close friends attend, and it was a very special day. I was very appreciative of her coming to do the ceremony.”

As LGBTQ+ liaison to the municipality, DiDomizio has recently encountered a negative resurgence against that community. “I feel like people are riding that wave again,” he said. “I think these protections [the federal bill] are necessary, especially since what happened with [overturning] Roe v. Wade. I never thought things would come around again where same-sex marriage would be called into question at the federal level. But here we are.”

Since 2015, Princeton has been submitting to the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, which examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ+ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality. Princeton earned a score of 100 this year and last year.

“Every year, the criteria gets a little bit tougher,” said DiDomizio, who has been involved in the submissions since late 2019. “And with a small town like Princeton, there is a lot to compete with in big cities.”

Despite the top scores, there is more that can be done in Princeton to provide services for LGBTQ+ youth or people living with HIV. “That’s where the continued work comes in,” DiDomizio said. “It’s something I take part in — making sure the municipality is not only held accountable, but thinking about ways we can improve.”