Anti-LGBT Legislation

Reform Movement Leaders Speak Out Against State-Level Anti-LGBT Legislation

May 2, 2016

In response to numerous anti-LGBT laws being introduced, and in many cases passed, at the state-level, the leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the North American Federation of Temple Youth issued the following statement:

“As leaders in the Reform Jewish Movement, we are deeply troubled by the sharp rise in legislation being proposed and in too many cases passed at the state level that affirms rights to discriminate against the LGBT community. We are especially concerned that such legislation is often falsely justified by appeals to religious freedom rights.

We know personally and professionally how the United States, through our Constitution and laws, has protected, ensured and enhanced religious freedom and religious diversity. Such freedom has allowed the Jewish people – and people of all faiths – to flourish in this country to a degree nearly unmatched anywhere else in the world. As Jews remain a religious minority in every state, we also know the importance of maintaining a balance between religious freedom and the many other rights and freedoms that define who we are as Americans. Any laws that aim to impinge on or imperil an individual’s fundamental dignity and humanity must be rejected.

Over the past few weeks, legislation has been introduced and/or become law in Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee, to name only a few states, that would, in all or in part:

  • Irrevocably tilt the balance in favor of religious freedom against laws that protect against discrimination, without even the opportunity to assess the appropriate equilibrium for each situation;
  • Permit taxpayer-funded discrimination, especially in employment; and
  • Target LGBT people by overturning existing non-discrimination protections, or render this community even more vulnerable, such as by barring transgender or gender-nonconforming people using facilities of the gender with which they identify.

We stand united against these proposals, and any similar legislation at the state or federal level. These bills defy our values as Reform Jews and as Americans. In this Passover season, as we celebrate liberation and redemption around our seder tables and in our communities, we are obligated to taste maror, the bitter herb, to feel the oppression that the Israelites faced in Egypt. The story, rituals and values of Passover remind us of the many people in our society who still know the bitterness of reprehensible discrimination, and that we must act to ensure that all people are treated equally, with dignity and respect.

That such harmful state-level bills are being introduced clearly demonstrates the need for federal non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community. We call on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These long-overdue protections for the LGBT community would bring us closer to wholeness, justice and peace for all people.”

 

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President
Daryl Messinger, Chair
Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO
Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Isabel P. Dunst, Chair
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
Jeremy Cronig, President
Kathryn Fleisher, Incoming President
North American Federation of Temple Youth

Bully Pulpit

Dear Readers

I know I took a bit of hiatus but I have been traveling quite a bit as part of my duties for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.  I thought you might enjoy this latest podcast that I did for Hebrew Union College’s Bully Pulpit series. Hosted by the Dean, Dr. Josh Holo of the Los Angeles campus of HUC-JIR, we spoke at length about the Torah for our Times.  I hope you enjoy it.  Click Here

Letter to the THE TASK FORCE

(I haven’t written yet about the fiasco at the NGLTF’s Creating Change ’16 Conference in Chicago last week). I am frankly still processing the outrageous Antisemitism displayed there and the lack of The Task Force’s ability to create safe space.  There is much to be said about what happened. But here is a letter sent today to the Executive Director, Rea Carey from many leaders of the Jewish and many from the LGBTQA community.)

January 27, 2016

TO: Rea Carey, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

We send this letter as members and leaders of the LGBTQ community. Some of us are Jewish; some of us are not. Some of us have spent time visiting or living in the State of Israel; some have not. Indeed, like the population of Israel itself, we have diverse, and often sharply conflicting, views about the difficult issues raised by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the best way to resolve them.
What we all do share is our history and experience in connection with the struggle for LGBTQ equality in the United States and elsewhere. Many of us have not only contributed significantly to the enormous strides that have been made towards LGBTQ equality in recent years, but have devoted our lives and careers to that cause. The purpose of this letter is to unequivocally express our collective and deep concern about what transpired at the Task Force’s 2016 Creating Change Conference in Chicago, Illinois (CC16) on Friday, January 22, 2016 with respect to A Wider Bridge, an organization that fosters relationships between Israel and the LGBT community (AWB), and the Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance (JOH).
While some of us were at the conference to witness the events of January 22, there were also a number of published reports. More than one hundred protesters succeeded in physically intimidating and ultimately shutting down a reception organized by AWB featuring Israeli speakers from JOH. It has been reported — and videos taken contemporaneously confirm — that the protesters chanted slogans like “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea,” which necessarily suggests that the State of Israel should no longer exist. Another protester shouted, “We are going to challenge these Zionist racist motherfuckers.” There were also reports of altercations between the protesters and the reception guests. Witnesses saw a man get into a scuffle with the protesters and have his yarmulke knocked off his head. In a separate incident, there is a report of an individual who was called “kike.”
We applaud the fact that the initial decision by Task Force staff to stop AWB and JOH from hosting a reception in the CC16 was reversed by the Task Force. We are aware that the 100–200 protesters were among a conference of 4,000 participants and have no reason to believe that what transpired outside the reception on January 22 reflects the views or experiences of the majority of the 4000 conference goers. We also know that there is a Jewish Movement Building Working Group as part of the Task Force’s Creating Change conference, which has, for many years, done important work ensuring Jewish voices are an integral part of the conference and conversation.
Nevertheless, the events of January 22 in Chicago were unacceptable and not in accord with the Task Force’s values of pluralism, inclusivity and thoughtful debate. The targeted organizations’ reception was disrupted and shut down by protesters (including people not attending the conference) with such hostility and aggression that speakers and attendees at the event were justifiably terrified and felt physically threatened. We are united in our belief that what transpired at CC16 was dangerous, deeply disturbing, and given the use of epithets like “kike,” clearly anti-Semitic.
The larger question posed by all of this is where do we as a progressive social movement go from here? What is the Task Force’s responsibility in this situation? What values does the Task Force wish to embody? We understand that the Task Force has undertaken to conduct a review of its policies in this regard and we congratulate that decision. We believe that the review should be conducted by an outside, independent party charged with determining what happened, how it happened, and what will be done to ensure that it will not happen again.
We also believe that the Task Force as well as all other LGBTQ organizations need to consider and adopt some form of an “active pluralism” policy with respect to these issues. Such a policy, while respecting the free speech rights of individuals and groups, would not allow protesters to effectively censor the speech of other groups, much less threaten the physical well-being and safety of those with whom they do not agree, including Jewish and Israeli LGBTQ groups. Given the concentrated and organized hostility that is so often displayed against Jewish and Israeli LGBTQ groups, and the stark rise in global anti-Semitism, it is even more important that we as a community promote civil and respectful debate. It is intellectually, politically and morally dishonest to claim that in the name of freedom, liberation, or some other progressive ideal, there is a right to target and exclude Jewish/Israeli groups, to foment physical intimidation and harassment, and to encourage anti-Semitism.
There is a long and ugly history of this kind of censorship where individuals with controversial ideas and viewpoints have been silenced in the name of the “greater good.” We should know by now that such censorship results in fewer (not more) good ideas and greater (not lesser) oppression of us all. Indeed, given that we come from a movement where LGBTQ people were effectively shut out from participation in the public discourse for so many years, what happened at CC16 was extremely dangerous. If we as a movement really believe in the values we profess to hold dear, then it is time to put an end to this.
Sincerely,
Aaron Belkin, Founding Director, Palm Center & Professor, San Francisco State University
Dana Beyer, Executive Director, Gender Rights Maryland
The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope
Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Ph.D., Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim
Rabbi Denise Eger, Congregation Kol Ami & President, Central Conference of American Rabbis of the Union of Reform Judaism
Lillian Faderman, Author and Professor, California State University— Fresno
The Honorable Barney Frank, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives
Frank Giaou, President, World Congress of GLBT Jews
The Honorable Deborah Glick, Member, New York State Assembly
Emily Hecht-McGowan, Interim Executive Director, Equality Council
The Honorable Brad Hoylman, Member, New York State Senate
The Honorable Corey Johnson, Member, New York City Council
Alex Halpern Levy, Former LGBT adviser to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
The Reverend Susan Hrostowski, Ph.D., LMSW, Vicar, St. Elizabeth Episcopal Church & Associate Professor, and Chair, Institutional Diversity Committee, University of Southern Mississippi
Vincent Jones, LGBT Activist and Philanthropist
Miryam Kabakov, Executive Director, Eshel
Roberta A. Kaplan, Partner, Paul Weiss LLP & Lead Counsel, U.S. vs. Windsor
Idit Klein, Executive Director, Keshet
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
Rabbi Michael A. Latz, Congregation Shir Tikvah
Arthur Leonard, Professor, New York Law School & Editor, LGBT Law Notes
The Honorable Mark Leno, Member, California State Senate
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Congregation Bet Haverim
Amichai Lau-Levie, Spiritual Leader, Lab/Shul NYC
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives: Building a Progressive Jewish Community in Brooklyn
Seth Madnick Marin, Associate Director, ADL Legal Affairs & Civil Rights Regional Counsel
Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, Africa Human Rights Coalition
Reverend Elder Troy D. Perry, Founder, Metropolitan Community Church
The Honorable Christine Quinn, Former Speaker, New York City Council & CEO, Women in Need
Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Chair/ Executive Director, International Imperial Court Council of USA, Canada and Mexico
Lee Rubin, Former Board Chair, NGLTF
Steven Rudner, Chair, Board of Directors, Equality Texas
Robert Saferstein, Founder, Eighteen:22, A Global Network for Change. The Next Chapter of LGBTQ Jewish Life
Andrea Shorter, Co-Founder, Bayard Rustin LGBTQ Coalition
Melissa Sklarz, Former Co-Chair, National Stonewall Democrats
Andrew Tobias, Treasurer, Democratic National Committee
Rabbi Rachel Timoner, Congregation Beth Elohim
Robin Tyler, Executive Director, The Equality Campaign
Alan Van Capelle, Former Executive Director, Empire State Pride Agenda
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
The Honorable Scott Weiner, Member, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Edie Windsor, Plaintiff, United States v. Windsor
Evan Wolfson, Former Executive Director, Freedom to Marry
Organizational Affiliations Listed for Identification Purposes Only
List in Formation

The Top Ten Reform Jewish Moments

I am so proud to be part of the top 10 Reform Jewish moments of 2015.

But I am prouder still that Reform Judaism continues to highlight the support and inclusion of LGBT people with the number one spot the transgender inclusion resolution passed at the URJ Biennial in Orlando and the CCAR’s transgender inclusion resolution in March 2015!

The fact that this still makes headlines tells you how important it is for religious leadership in the area of welcome and inclusion for women, people of color, LGBT people, people who are differently abled and so many more. Reform Judaism and in particular the rabbis highlighted in the list have dedicated their careers to creating a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community, that stands tall for justice not just through words but through action.

See for yourself.   Year-inReview2015