We celebrated Salena’s birthday February 27th. She would have been 45 years old. Sadly she died July 3, 2019 of arteriosclerosis, a silent killer. Salena was a standout from her teens, being one of the founders of Dems 2000, a group of young Democrats committed to, at that time, a liberal agenda, now called progressive. Salena was a dedicated campaign worker for Democratic candidates for the Legislature and served as a legislative aide for Union County Senator Joe Suliga.

Featured above: Senator Bob Menendez, President Bill Clinton, Salena Lesniak, Senator  Raymond Lesniak, and Salena and Ray’s dog, Brittany.


In Salena’s early 20s, she searched down her birth family having been adopted as a baby of teen lovers who ultimately got married. Salena remained true to her adoptive mother and father, who couldn’t have children, while keeping in touch with her birth family. Her adoptive history became a chapter she wrote in my book, What’s Love Got To Do With It: The Case For Same Sex Marriage, where she challenged those opposed to same sex marriage because “marriage was for procreation”, forcefully pointing out her opposite sex parents couldn’t have children, yet they were allowed to marry, as should gay couples. 

Salena was one of the first trustees of the groundbreaking LGBTQ organization, Garden State Equality, founded by civil rights icon Steven Goldstein. She served on the New Jersey Civil Rights Commission and was its chair for one term. Salena changed me from being a supporter of LGBTQ rights to being a champion of LGBTQ rights. Salena also turned me into a champion for animal welfare as well. 

Salena would often say, pointing to my narcissistic side, “Oh, my God, I’m thirty seconds into a story and you’ve already turned it around to being about you,” Or, “Don’t give me that, ‘Jane, you ignorant slut look,’” referring to my Sheldon from Big Bang Theory side. But Salena was a very caring person and my biggest cheerleader, an inspiration for my social justice causes, changing me from being a supporter of marriage equality to an advocate for it.  Salena and I were proudly named the #1 Straight Allies Couple by InsiderNJ.com. 

We lost a champion when Salena died and I lost the love of my life. Our 22 years together will always be deeply embedded in my heart. Women’s History Month was made for women like Salena.