Whether you observe Passover according to the strict rules of Jewish law, or you attend one family Seder, or whether your Passover observance is watching The Prince of Egypt, or whatever traditions, practices or customs you find meaningful, the weeks leading up to Passover (April 3-11, 2015) feel like a Jewish March Madness. Between planning Seders, cleaning your house of chametz or mentally preparing yourself for a week of matzah, there’s a lot to get done and it always feels like not enough time. Read more…
The Department of Justice released an updated version of its Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual earlier this month, including new information on identifying hate crimes against Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans and Arab Americans. The FBI agreed to start tracking hate crimes against these groups in 2013, following a push by advocacy groups, including the RAC, for the FBI to expand the categories of biases it collected hate crime statistics for in the wake of the 2012 shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI.
Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and a lot has changed in the past five years. Thanks to the ACA, the 129 million non-elderly Americans with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged more because of their pre-existing condition. Also, millions of low-income individuals are now eligible for Medicaid thanks to ACA expansion of the program. And, a March 16, 2016 Department of Health and Human Services report states that 16.4 million uninsured people have gained health insurance coverage since 2010 under the Affordable Care Act. These improvements, among many others, on the five year anniversary of the ACA are a cause to celebrate and rededicate our commitment to affordable and accessible care for all.
I’ve loved working at the RAC these past six months and one of the highlights of my time at the RAC so far has been our L’Taken social justice seminars for high school students, where nearly 300 Reform Jewish teens come to Washington, D.C. for a weekend to learn about social justice, lobby on Capitol Hill and get inspiration to be lifelong Jewish advocates. Now, when I first applied for this job, I wasn’t particularly excited about L’Taken. While the idea of engaging high school students on important social justice issues sounded appealing, I thought back to how my classmates behaved in high school. Fortunately, it turned out I was wrong and running six L’Takens the past three months has reminded me why I love working for the RAC so much.
Last month, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidelines which call on single-sex emergency shelters and other facilities to “place a potential client (or current client seeking a new assignment) in a shelter or facility that corresponds to the gender with which the person identifies,” while taking health and safety concerns into account. This guidance builds upon HUD’s 2012 regulation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in programs and shelters receiving HUD funding and is an important victory in the fight to provide shelter for people experiencing resources.
This past weekend, four of the other legislative assistants and I were in Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the March to Montgomery. We had planned our trips months prior to the event, and although I was excited to be a part of this important milestone, I became more and more nervous as the Jubilee approached. With each passing day, I continued to read about the barriers to marriage equality in Alabama, and although I clearly had no intention of getting married while in Alabama, it reminded me that Alabama has the lowest support for marriage equality out of all fifty states and lacks non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals. I would be leaving the queer-friendly bubble of Washington, D.C. for a state where I could not as easily assume people’s support for my rights. It was ironic that I would be going to a state to mark a landmark moment in civil rights history while that same state was currently in the throes of resisting equality for LGBT people.
On March 27, legally married same-sex couples will be able to take unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Signed into law 22 years ago, FMLA allows eligible workers to take a maximum 12 weeks unpaid time off of work to care for a new child (including adopted and foster children), care for a sick child, act as a caregiver for a parent, address personal serious health concerns and care for wounded service members. The rule, published last month, revises the definition of spouse to include legally married same-sex couples, regardless of whether the state they live in recognizes their marriage or not. This is an important step forward for LGBT individuals.
Last month, Senator Al Franken and Representative Jared Polis reintroduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R.846/S.439). The Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) would prohibit discrimination in public schools on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although there have been several setbacks in Congress the past few weeks for SNDA, the bill’s passage is still as important as ever.