Knittel, who has lived in Hoboken for over 20 years, has been a long-time advocate for marginalized groups including women and LGBTQ communities, and has organized several events to aid them.
“Some people can’t or don’t know how to advocate for themselves,” said Knittel.“I want to help, whether it’s guiding them through the proper channels or doing my best to speak for them.”
In 2016 Knittel helped organize a rally in support of then priest Father Warren Hall, who was forced to leave St. Peter and Paul’s church in Hoboken after supporting gay rights. He had supported Kate Drumgoole, a Paramus Catholic High School faculty member fired for being in a same-sex marriage.
In her employment as the community outreach coordinator for the Hoboken Public Library, she helped organize LGBTQ community panels with Q&A’s.
In her spare time she was also on the board of the Hudson County Pride Center, one of the largest LGBTQ centers in the state, and only stepped down in 2014 after her stepbrother passed away in a car accident.
During the Zimmer administration in Hoboken, she advocated for a city diversity inclusion committee which she hopes to further this year.
Her longtime advocacy was officially honored during the first ever Hudson County Pride Month Kick Off & Community Awards Celebration. She received special State Senate recognition and a Hudson County Citation for exemplifying “the humanitarian and civic values we as a nation hold in such high esteem.”
“I would like to be a messenger of sorts or advocate for communities that are marginalized.” –Laura Knittel
“I would like to continue to help lead the community in not only its first big pride event, which is happening this month, but to continue to work to ensure that LGBTQ people are represented and protected,” she said. The county is celebrating its first-ever Hudson Pride Month, with events happening in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne throughout August.
Knittel said that while Hoboken is welcoming to the LGBTQ community, it still has a long way to go.
“We aren’t completely homophobia-free here in Hoboken,” said Knittel. “I’ve had community members tell me they were being mocked or made fun of. My neighbor was attacked on Washington Street a few years ago, and I know people who have gotten comments for holding hands.”
She noted that there are a lot of people and businesses in Hoboken that are allies, but “to me it shouldn’t be happening at all. We aren’t completely in the safe zone.”
As far as the national political climate, she said at a minimum, she and many people in the LGBTQ community are concerned.
“There is so much hate. It seems right now you can say what you want, and I don’t remember it being that way in my 20s,” said Knittel. “I’ll be 50 in January, and as I get older, there seems to be fewer ground rules and it’s concerning.”
She noted the recent changes under the Trump administration, allowing adoption agencies to turn away same sex couples, single parents, or biracial couples looking to adopt for religious reasons.
“In our movement it’s not unusual to make a few advances ahead and then get a push back,” said Knittel. “We just have to keep going and aid in the human evolution and the evolution of our country.”
Get in touch
Knittel said she and the city plan to conduct an online survey of the community to get better understanding of the LGBTQ community’s needs and wants in Hoboken.
“I would like to ask for the community's support and I will be reaching out to some of them from time to time to help me along the way,” said Knittel.
She said she wants the community to feel free to reach out to her at any time, even wave her down when they see her.
Knittel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (201) 780-1647.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at email@example.com.