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From L’Taken to Machon Kaplan and Beyond: My Advocacy for LGBT Equality



By Abby Kirshbaum

When I was in 10th grade, I attended the Religious Action Center’s LTaken Seminar with my confirmation class. On the last day of the trip we got to lobby to one of our senators on an issue that appealed most to us. Little did I know, the legislation in which I lobbied, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would become such a huge part of my life.

At a young age, I was taught by my family, rabbis, and Jewish day school teachers that everyone deserves equality and justice. As a Jew, I was obligated to make the world better not only for my family and friends, but for everyone. In the hope that my best friend would be comfortable coming out of the closet to me when he was ready, LGBT rights became ‘my thing’ and it became important for me to find a way to fit sexual orientation and gender identity into my life.

Five years after confirmation, I found myself back in D.C. and still working on the connection between Judaism, LGBT rights and worker justice. This summer I am interning at Pride at Work, which is a contingency group of the ALF-CIO. Pride at Work represents LGBT union members and their allies. It is imperative for these people to be a part of a union and have access to so many workplace protections, because in 29 states someone can be fired for being gay, and in 32 states someone can be fired for being transgender. The thought of my best friend being fired for his sexual orientation, something he has become so proud of, makes me want to scream. But as a civilized American, it also makes me wonder why ENDA has not yet become the law of the land.

ENDA would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for all. But unfortunately, even though it has been on the table since 1994, it has not yet passed. In the 113th Congress, the bill passed in the Senate which makes me hopeful that we are getting closer and closer to workplace equality. However, in the 114th Congress, in which we are in now, the bill has not yet been introduced. Research shows that the majority of voters support the ENDA act and many don’t even realize that this type of discrimination is legal in so many states.

Soon, there will also be a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill introduced in Congress that will address equal access for LGBT individuals to credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service and public accommodations. This bill will become a new center point for the LGBT movement and will provide deserved equality to all people no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. This movement will not be stopped until LGBT people achieve the full equality they deserve.

It is amazing that 10th graders lobby their members of Congress on such important issues as ENDA. But, it is not amazing that despite huge leaps in LGBT rights, including the landmark marriage equality decision handed down by the Supreme Court last week, workplace discrimination still exists and is legal. My Jewish values and the Religious Action Center have helped pave my work and my voice on workplace non-discrimination. I am hoping to see an equal and just workplace in the near future for the sake of my best friend and for the sake of us all.


Abby Kirshbaum

Abby Kirshbaum is a senior at Brandeis University. There, she is a Psychology major, and Business and Social Justice & Social Policy minor. This summer, she is interning at Pride at Work, a contingency group of the AFL-CIO. She is excited to be in DC and is honored to be a Machon Kaplan participant at the Religious Action Center.

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Machon Kaplan Participant

About Machon Kaplan Participant

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at www.rac.org/mk. The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

2 Responses to “From L’Taken to Machon Kaplan and Beyond: My Advocacy for LGBT Equality”

  1. Awesome post! Excited to hear about the new legislation and can’t wish to find out how to support it!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Social Action Hotspot, June 2015 - July 15, 2015

    […] You Know?: According to an article Abby Kirshbaum posted on the RAC website (http://blogs.rj.org/rac/2015/07/10/ltaken-machon-kaplan-beyond-advocacy-lgbt-equality/) it is legal to fire an individual for being gay or transgender in over half of states in the […]

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