Garden State Equality Proudly Supports Governor Murphy’s Historic Appointment of Nation’s First Openly Gay Commissioner of Department of Environmental Protection

Appointment of Shawn LaTourette to Acting Commissioner of the NJDEP in Governor Murphy’s Cabinet is welcomed at a time when New Jersey has no LGBTQ legislators

January 13, 2021

ASBURY PARK, NJ (MONMOUTH)–Today Governor Phil Murphy made a historic announcement with the selection of Shawn LaTourette to serve as the Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. LaTourette, who presently holds the number two position in the NJDEP, is believed to be the only openly LGBTQ person to lead a state or federal environmental protection agency in the nation.

“At a time when the New Jersey legislature is empty from any representation for the LGBTQ community, this appointment is welcomed and appreciated.  It speaks to Governor Murphy’s commitment to diverse inclusion in our government,” said Christian Fuscarino, Executive Director of Garden State Equality. “Highly qualified LGBTQ people like Shawn are ready to step up and serve in leadership positions in the Garden State. With LaTourette positioned to now become Commissioner, he would become the second openly LGBTQ person included in Murphy’s cabinet.”

“Shawn LaTourette’s years of work at the NJDEP spearheading clean air and water initiatives as well as environmental justice and clean energy have established his as a ‘perfect fit’ in this position,” said long-time Garden State Equality executive board member Thomas Prol, an environmental attorney at Sills Cummis & Gross law firm and former state bar president.  Prol continued, “He is highly respected in the legal community, and his dedication to visionary environmental stewardship is impressive and why NJDEP is again viewed as one of the vibrant and impactful environmental agencies in the nation.”

About Garden State Equality
Established in 2004, Garden State Equality (GSE) is the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in New Jersey and one of the most successful statewide civil rights organizations for the LGBTQ community in the nation. Our services include education, advocacy, policy work, and training informed by racial, economic, and disability justice advancement.

Governor Murphy Announces Shawn LaTourette as Acting Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Governor Phil Murphy today announced that Shawn LaTourette will serve as Acting Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) beginning on January 16. LaTourette, currently the Department’s Deputy Commissioner, takes the helm from Catherine R. McCabe, who will retire from public service on January 15 having spent more than 40 years protecting the environment, including three years as DEP Commissioner. LaTourette will serve as Acting Commissioner until a permanent replacement for McCabe is identified.

With twenty years of environmental experience, LaTourette began his career partnering with the Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. Born and raised in New Jersey, LaTourette graduated magna cum laude from Rutgers University and earned his law degree summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School, where he was the class salutatorian and the recipient of multiple environmental and governance awards, and published scholarship on environmental law, natural resource damage, and climate issues. Before entering public service, LaTourette specialized in protecting the rights of victims of toxic injuries while also advising infrastructure, transportation, energy, and other industries on compliance with state and federal environmental laws and policies. Prior to joining the Murphy Administration, he was most recently a Director of the Environmental Law Department at Gibbons PC, where he focused on brownfields redevelopment projects and litigated environmental cases in state and federal court. 

LaTourette first joined DEP as chief legal and regulatory policy advisor to Commissioner McCabe in 2018, becoming DEP’s Chief of Staff in 2019 and, in 2020, the Deputy Commissioner responsible for running the operations of DEP while notably leading efforts to craft the reforms necessary to advance the Administration’s climate change and environmental justice priorities. 

A devoted advocate for equality of all people, LaTourette was elected to serve as Chair of the LGBTQ Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, completing his term in 2020, and will be the first openly gay Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the nation. A Middlesex County native, he resides in Highland Park with his partner and twin daughters.