Last night the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted to ends its national ban on gay scout leaders and employees. While this vote represents an important step forward for the BSA, the resolution also allows chartered organizations to select their leaders based on their religious beliefs, therefore allowing individual troops to continue to ban gay scout leaders. In 2013, Rabbi David Saperstein, then-Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, wrote a letter calling on the BSA to end their ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders and called for the BSA to establish a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. The BSA eventually lifted their ban on gay scouts, and last month, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the RAC, wrote a letter calling on the BSA to lift their ban on gay scout leaders and affirm that transgender boys can serve as both scouts and leaders. Although the ban on gay scout leaders has now been lifted, the BSA has remained silent on transgender inclusion.
When I came out to my parents in high school as gay, I was fortunate enough to have their full acceptance and love. However, I remember my mom saying early on that she was saddened to know the difficulties I would now have to face because of my identity. But I was already aware of some of those challenges: bullying and homophobia, the inability to get married in most states and a ban on serving in the military.
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.
Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the Department of Defense “will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.” This working group, Secretary Carter shared, will operate under the assumption that trans people can service openly without an adverse impact on military readiness and effectiveness. In addition, Secretary Carter announced that Under Secretary of the Army Brad Carson will be making all decisions relating to administrative discharges for service members who identify as trans or are diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Last December, the FDA announced that it would be replacing its current lifelong ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men (MSM) with a policy that allows MSM to give blood if they have not had sex with another man in the past year. Following the release of draft guidance by the FDA on this new policy, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, submitted the following comments:
Currently, federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination in school based on race, color, national origin, sex and disability. However, no federal law explicitly protects students from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or their association with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Today, the Supreme Court issued an historic 5-4 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of marriage equality. Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion strongly advocated for expanding freedom as the need arises.
The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.
51 years ago, on June 21, 1964, civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner were abducted in Neshoba County, Mississippi and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had been in Mississippi preparing and registering African Americans to vote as part of Freedom Summer. The three men were executed on the side of a dark road in Mississippi, and it took 44 days for their bodies to be found. Their deaths fueled support of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an Act that we are trying to strengthen and support again today.