LGBT Equality and Workplace Protection at the URJ Biennial
On Friday, Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman, Rabbi Eleanor Steinman, NFTY Communications Vice President Aaron Heft and rabbinic student Jeremy Gimbel joined RAC Deputy Director, Rachel Laser for “A RAC: LGBT Equality and Workplace Protection” at the URJ Biennial.
Rabbi Steinman kicked off the session with an introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the major issues faced by the LGBT community. Rabbi Steinman urged the session participants to think about the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals that go beyond the issue of same-sex marriage. What happens when a woman is legally married but is fired for having a picture of her wife on her desk at work? Members of the LGBT community deserve to be recognized and protected equally under the law.
A text study, led by Rabbi Schwartzman, focused on the many texts that encourage the Reform Movement to continue to push on towards LBGT equality. Rabbi Schwartzman was an active proponent of a non-discrimination state bill in Utah called the Housing and Employment Antidiscrimination Amendment. This past March, Rabbi Schwartzman worked with the RAC and Equality Utah to build support for the legislation and submitted testimony at the Utah Senate Workforce and Economic Development Committee hearing, comparing this issue with the Jewish plight of discrimination.
Following the text study, Rachel Laser presented a thorough description of ENDA, from its inception in 1994 to its current status, having passed a historic Senate floor vote this November. Laser delved into the RAC’s campaign for ENDA, describing the URJ’s long standing support for the rights of the LGBT community, and explaining the different aspects of the RAC’s ENDA campaign, including garnering the support of unique religious leaders and organizing the Faiths Calling Congressional call-in day. Aaron Heft then spoke about the role of NFTY in our continued efforts to secure equality for LGBT individuals.
To close this powerful session, Jeremy Gimbel led the participants in singing the words of Pirke Avot 2:16,“lo alecha hamlacha ligmor – You are not required to complete the work, nor are you free to ignore it.”