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Senate Filibuster of Hobby Lobby Fix Bill Shows Continuing Disregard for Women’s Health

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby almost three weeks ago, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578/H.R. 5051).

This bill was crafted in the aftermath of Hobby Lobby to ensure that all people will continue to access all kinds of medical needs and services whether their employer might have a religious objection or not. Additionally, it maintains the contraception mandate’s accommodation and exemption for religious non-profits and for houses of worship.

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A Gun Violence Prevention Update

Since last writing on gun violence prevention , the United States has seen more tragic reminders of gun violence in America. However, there have been  many positive developments. Here are the biggest stories from the last two weeks: Read more…

President Obama's Climate Plan

Building Resilience and Adapting to Climate Change

Yesterday, President Obama announced a crucial aspect of his Climate Action Plan: a comprehensive proposal to provide necessary infrastructures in preparing the United States to withstand the most severe impacts of climate change, like extreme weather events and increased flooding.

In November, the president established the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise him on how the federal government can best respond to communities nationwide that are already dealing with the impacts of climate change. The task force is composed of governors, mayors, county officials, and tribal leaders who thoroughly understand how the communities they represent have been affected by the increased frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods.

If you take a moment to peruse the Third National Climate Assessment, released this past May, you will see that climate change impacts every region of our country. In the Northeast, river flooding and heat waves plague the most disadvantaged communities. In the Southwest, severe droughts stress water sources, and rising sea levels pose risk to highways, bridges, power plants, and sewage treatment plants. In the Midwest, increased temperatures are having a negative effect on human health and suppressing agricultural yields. All of these impacts of climate disruption call for the mitigation of carbon pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases. Take a moment to tell the EPA that you support the Clean Power Plan, which will limit emissions from existing power plants.

However, emissions reductions are not enough. We must also promote efforts to support communities throughout the country in adapting to the realities of our changing climate. The president’s plan and the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience help communities build better resilience to the impacts of climate change. This is particularly important in ensuring that every American, from every community and every region, is protected from future extreme weather events and other disasters.

Many times throughout history, the Jewish people have faced crisis or the threat of destruction, but we have emerged with hope. In considering the ecological crisis facing our world, we must recognize that Jewish tradition calls on us to adapt to our changing climate and be resilient for the benefit of future generations.

The Power of One

There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 1,440 minutes in a day, and 525,600 minutes in a year. In just 60 seconds, 1 child in Africa will die due to malaria. If this doesn’t change, how many children will die this year?

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Debating ENDA

Recent headlines about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been reminiscent of those from nearly seven years ago, when ENDA passed the House of Representatives. In the 110th Congress, then-Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the first trans-inclusive version of ENDA. However, after a preliminary vote proved the bill had no chance of passing, Rep. Frank stripped ENDA of its gender identity language and introduced a sexual orientation-only version of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November 2007.

This controversial decision divided the LGBT rights advocacy community. Some organizations withdrew support for the legislation, feeling that the exclusion of the transgender community significantly diminished the efficacy of the bill. Others, including the RAC, the Humans Rights Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, felt that piecemeal protection was better than no protection at all. We remained vocal, however, about our belief that protection only on the basis of sexual orientation was not enough. Judaism teaches love of humanity and respect for the divinity in all people. Guided by those ideals, the Reform Jewish Movement continues to maintain ardent support for legislation that advances civil and human rights.

Yet again, the LGBT rights advocacy community is split in the fight for ENDA. On July 8, a few prominent LGBT and civil rights organizations, including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the ACLU, formally dropped their support for the bill in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case.

The court decided in the case that Hobby Lobby and other closely-held, secular for-profit corporations do not have to cover for their employees the contraceptive care to which they object on religious grounds. The LGBT advocacy organizations that have withdrawn their support of ENDA are concerned that this ruling could affect the interpretation of ENDA’s current religious exemption.

Regardless of the implications posed by the Hobby Lobby case, there is no denying that an inclusive, federal workplace non-discrimination law is long overdue. Since ENDA was introduced more than a year and a half ago, the RAC and its allies in the LGBT rights community have tirelessly fought for this essential piece of legislation, pushing passage in the Senate and securing a record number of bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. We cannot ignore the urgent need for a law, backed by bipartisan support, that would advance the rights of the LGBT community and ensure that tens of millions of LGBT people are protected in the workplace.

On a Day of Fasting, Remembering What We Share

Yesterday began the three-week period leading up to Tisha B’Av (August 4-5 this year), the darkest, saddest day on the Jewish calendar. On Tisha B’Av, we fast and we mourn for the destruction of the ancient temples, as well as many other devastations throughout Jewish history.

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Double Booked: Low Wages Just Aren’t Ok

By Linda Williams

Last week, I went car shopping.

Just like most people I need a car to get around, but I also need a car to do my job. As a home care worker, I’m required to run errands for my clients. Sometimes I need to take them to appointments of do their shopping. Doing all that on the bus just isn’t practical for me or my clients. Most of the people I work for can only pay for a set number of hours of assistance and if I spend all that time on the bus, important things don’t get done.

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Note from Israel: A Rabbi Reflects on a Difficult Week

This blog was originally posted on ReformJudaism.org on July 9, 2014.

By Rabbi Denise L. Eger

It has been a difficult time in Israel. I have been here in Eretz Yisrael for more than a week now, arriving just before they found the bodies of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. I was with several colleagues when the news of the discovery of their bodies came over the news, and it was a palpable moment that took our breath away.

Israel went into mourning. Jews from the right or left cried with their families. I was surprised how few cars were out in the streets. I was glued to watching the funeral and crying, too – and then, in the midst of mourning, a young Arab teen was burned alive. Retribution by a gang of Jewish thugs, it was cold-blooded murder. Read more…

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