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LGBT Jews March in Israel Day Parade

For the first time, an openly gay organization was allowed to participate in New York City’s Israel Day parade, which was held on Sunday. This is the culmination of a fight that began in 1993, when Congregation Beth Simchat Torah – an LGBT synagogue – registered for, and then was kicked out of, the march. Beginning in 1999, the congregation was allowed to participate, as long as it didn’t use the word “gay” on any of its banners.

This inclusion has resulted in a renewed chorus of accusations of “pinkwashing.” Groups like “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” claim that Israel and pro-Israel advocates are using Israel’s progress – especially in relation to the rest of the Arab world – on LGBT equality as a way of “painting over” other human rights violations. These accusations aren’t new, but they should be addressed because they belittle the very significant progress made by the LGBT community in Israel, even as its neighbors continue to oppress their own LGBT populations. While homosexuality remains punishable by prison or even death in many surrounding countries, it has been decriminalized for decades in Israel. In fact, in some respect Israel has outstripped not only all of the countries in the Middle East, but even the United States in terms of progress on LGBT equality. Read more…


Reform Jewish Movement Applauds Rabbinical Assembly’s Same-Sex Marriage Guidelines

Washington, D.C. June 4th, 2012 – In response to the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards’ approval of guidelines for performing same-sex marriages, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: Read more…


The (Super-)Heroes We Deserve

There are a lot of gay, bisexual and transgender nerds. After all, there are people with different sexual orientations and gender identities in every community, whether it’s a professional field, interest area, school or synagogue. But, unlike their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, it can be easy for gay, bi and trans kids to feel excluded from the world of nerds. Girls, too, are often underrepresented in the gaming world – or, when they are present, they are sexualized or tokenized. The world of video games, computers and comics is one overwhelming dominated by straight, cisgender men. Online game play is also well-known for being replete with anti-gay commentary – trash talk often involves calling other players “faggots” or “accusing” them of being “gay.”

Non-straight male characters in games (and everything else) are rare. Role-playing games have long featured heterosexual romantic subplots with no ability to opt out or go around it, forcing the player into romancing a woman (the protagonists are almost always men) if he or she wants to complete the game. Although many have hypothesized about a possible gay relationship between Batman and Robin, openly gay characters in the world of comics have been conspicuously absent for a long time – until recently. Read more…


Having Faith in the Fastest-Moving Civil Rights Movement

Over the course of the past decade, the cause of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality has made great strides. As of last year, a majority of Americans supports same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, President Obama became the first president in U.S. history to endorse marriage equality. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) will soon be the first member of Congress to be married to someone of the same sex.

It was not so long ago that the majority of Americans condemned same-sex relationships as immoral. In fact, more Americans viewed divorce, gambling, the death penalty, pre-marital sex and animal testing as morally acceptable. In the late 1980s, only 32% of Americans believed that same-sex relations should even be legal. In the 1990s, nearly 60% of Americans said that homosexuality should not be considered an “acceptable alternative lifestyle.” Read more…


Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Wiretapping Case

Yesterday the Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the federal government’s use of electronic surveillance – “wiretapping” – of calls and other communications between Americans and those overseas under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments (FISA) Act of 2008. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 is the “broadest surveillance program ever enacted by Congress.” The ACLU has called for Congress to “fix” FISA, arguing that monitoring of communications should be limited to suspected terrorists.

But the Court is not being asked to consider the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act—at least, not yet. Rather, the Court will be deciding whether those bringing the lawsuit – a group of activists, journalists and lawyers – have the standing to actually bring the case. The group claims that they have a “well-founded fear” that their communications have been intercepted by the federal government. However, the Obama administration – defending the law – says that they cannot prove that any of their e-mails or phone calls have actually been monitored. Read more…


Amendment May Prohibit Indefinite Detention

On January 1, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, an annual bill authorizing military spending. Two provisions in that year’s bill stood out: These provisions provided the government the power to indefinitely detain and render into military custody any person – citizen or not – apprehended on suspicion of terrorism. As I’ve discussed numerous times before, these provisions represent among the most egregious violations of American civil liberties since the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. As a result of these dangerous provisions, innocent American civilians could be arrested by the police and find themselves held at the Guantanamo Bay facility without legal recourse. This is completely unacceptable. Read more…


A Personal Reflection On President Obama’s ‘Evolution’

To this day, I remember watching the 2004 vice-presidential debate as a freshman in high school and hearing Senator John Edwards (D-NC) speak about his opposition to marriage equality. I remember how my heart sank; I remember feeling like I was worth less than my straight friends.

I remember, when I was 15, learning that only 40% or so of Americans felt that gay relationships were “morally acceptable.” I remember admonishing myself to never come out of the closet if I ever wanted to be successful in life.

I remember watching President George W. Bush endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment when I was 16. I remember watching the anti-gay referenda pass in 2004, and then again in 2008. I remember wondering – having been told so many times that it was the case – whether maybe there really was something wrong with me. Read more…


Reform Movement Hails President’s Endorsement of Marriage Equality

Washington, D.C. May 9th, 2012 – In response to President Barack Obama’s endorsement today of marriage equality, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement, Read more…