Arizona anti-gay bill protest

Beyond Marriage Equality

On Wednesday night at the ESPY Awards, Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named after the African American tennis star who died of AIDS in 1993. In her moving speech, Caitlyn described the struggles trans people face, including bullying, suicide and even murder, and the importance of education and accepting trans people and their identities. Caitlyn’s speech highlighted several of the many issues that the LGBT community and their allies now have to address following the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision.

The Supreme Court’s ruling three weeks ago to overturn marriage bans and establish marriage equality across the United States was an important milestone in the battle for LGBT equality but a lot more needs to be done. As Caitlyn highlighted, trans people face high levels of bullying and are often the victims of violence, including homicides. Transgender people, like their lesbian, gay and bisexual counterparts, lack explicit federal non-discrimination protections and therefore have limited recourse when they face discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, federal funding, education and jury selection.

The fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court’s decision, though important, had a narrow scope and only focused on marriage equality. Earlier this week, we saw in the halls of Congress the legislative barriers that LGBT people still must overcome. When the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) – a bill that would prohibit discrimination in public schools based on students actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or their association with LGBT people – came to a vote as an amendment to a larger bill, it failed to get the 60 votes it needed (52-45).

Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have announced that they will jointly be introducing legislation that would establish comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, including protections in education. If the SNDA vote is any indicator, this will be an uphill battle.

In addition, LGBT youth throughout the country are still struggling with their identities and often face rejection from their peers and their family. Despite President Obama’s call for states to outlaw “conversion therapy,” it is still legal in most states for conversion therapy providers to offer services that they claim can make LGB people straight and transgender people cisgender. These “therapies,” beyond being ineffective, also lead to negative psychological outcomes among LGBT people.

It is clear that we still have a long way to go to achieve legal equality for LGBT people. But, perhaps the most difficult struggle LGBT people face is achieving lived equality. LGBT people need laws that grant them the same rights and protections as other marginalized groups, but as the experiences of people of color in this country illustrate, legal protections do not necessarily lead to lived equality, though they do get us closer to that place.

As Reform Jews, we have an obligation to play a leading role in fighting for LGBT equality. Our tradition teaches us that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27) and that there are other genders/sexes beyond male and female. As Jews who are tasked with repairing the world, we cannot stand idly by as LGBT people face discrimination and rejection. That is why our synagogues have taken important steps over the past few decades to welcome LGBT people and why the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis have passed over a dozen resolutions regarding LGBT rights, including the CCAR’s most recent resolution in opposition to conversion therapy and in support of the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people. To learn more about LGBT rights and to contact your elected officials about important LGBT legislation, visit the RAC’s LGBT rights webpage.


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Jordan Dashow

About Jordan Dashow

Jordan Dashow is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. He graduated in 2014 from Tufts University and is originally from Plainview, NY where he is a member of Manetto Hill Jewish Center.

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