Tag Archives: LGBT Rights
Marriage Equality and the RAC

Beyond the Fight for Marriage Equality

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal…for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition.” – Justice Robert Kennedy, Majority Opinion in U.S. v. Windsor

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in this landmark case, declaring Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act – which defined a spouse as someone of the opposite sex and marriage as a union between one man and one woman – unconstitutional. Following this decision, there was a surge in the fight for marriage equality all over the country.  There are currently 19 states along with the District of Columbia that have removed bans on same-sex marriage.  Recently, states have been overturning bans on same-sex marriage every other week.  It seems that the movement for marriage equality and LGBT rights is at its highest and most successful point.  But it’s not.

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all five legislative assistants 2013-2014

An Open Letter from the 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistants

Today is our last day as legislative assistants at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. None of us imagined on August 20, 2013 – our very first day – that this year would have gone by so fast. It is has been an incredible honor to serve and represent our vibrant, passionate Movement in Washington, D.C.; one that we will cherish always.

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Frankie Salzman

40 Years of Fighting to End Workplace Discrimination

In 1974, two members of the House of Representatives, Reps. Bella Abzug (D-NY) and Ed Koch (D-NY), introduced a bill entitled the “Equality Act of 1974″.  This bill would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment on a national level. This was the first of its kind. In 1994, this effort morphed into a bill known as ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  At first, this legislation would have made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.  For some, this wasn’t enough, as the 1994 bill did not include gender identity or expression until 2007 when actual or perceived gender identity/expression was added under what constituted illegal discrimination in the bill. Support for ENDA continued to grow, and in fact, this past November the Senate passed ENDA with sexual orientation and gender identity/expression included.

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The Moral Imperative of Non-Discrimination

Amidst the suffering and conflict occurring in too many parts of the world, the White House delivered good news and something to celebrate today.  Rabbi David Saperstein and I were privileged to be in the East Room of the White House this morning to watch President Obama sign an Executive Order prohibiting all companies that receive a contract from the federal government from discriminating against LGBT employees and adding gender identity to federal government’s current prohibition of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Read more…

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.

Capital pride logo

Pride Everywhere

This past month, people throughout the country and around the world participated in LGBT Pride.  In San Francisco, for the first time, 14 Reform Jewish congregations in the greater Bay Area marched together with 75 participants from URJ Camp Newman behind a Union for Reform Judaism banner. Inspired by the Jewish teachings about the equality and dignity of every human being, approximately 200 Jewish individuals came together for this momentous occasion and this public display of support. Check out the JWeekly article for more details. Read more…

One Year Since Windsor, One Year of Victories

One year ago, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. The decision not only granted federal marriage recognition to millions of the couples throughout the country, but also a sparked a year of momentous marriage victories in the states.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Yesterday, just in time for this anniversary, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in Utah. As you may recall, a Utah district court judge issued a ruling striking down a ban on same-sex marriage back in December. Over a thousand couples rushed to the courts to be married, right before the Supreme Court issued a stay, pending appeal. This appellate court ruling is also stayed pending further action, which could be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday’s ruling in Utah holds particular significance in that it is the first time a federal appeals court has struck down a state’s ban.  Read more…

What Does Korach Teach Us?

By Leah Citrin

When “Ken” grew up in northern Kenya, he faced many hardships. In a part of the country that is not agriculturally productive, the people in this region often felt neglected by the government. As a society of nomadic pastoralists, Ken’s community lived without internet, phones, or access to education. The culture around him viewed LGBT issues as “western” and individuals who came out as gay were met with violence and discrimination. As an LGBT activist, “Ken” must mask his name and the name of his organization to avoid imprisonment or even death. In order to express one part of his identity, he must hide a different part of it.

Like “Ken,” Korach, the main character of this week’s Torah portion, sees an injustice and calls the people to action: “All the community—all of them—are holy,” Korach challenges Moses and Aaron, “and God is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the congregation of God?” Korach’s challenge, that each person has value and holiness, resonates with us today. We, as American Reform Jews, value each individual and his or her abilities and contributions. We believe that there are different kinds of leaders and we fight for justice in the form of equality. In living out these beliefs, we eliminated the ritual hierarchy in Judaism by erasing the distinctions between Priests, Levites, and Israelites. So we can empathize with Korach. Read more…

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