October 24, 2014 · 30 Tishrei

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Reform Movement Condemns Alarming Number of State Anti-Gay Bills

"We are deeply offended by those in Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, and Idaho (where similar bills are pending) who seek to revive state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the name of religion. So too we respect each individual’s right to their deeply held religious beliefs. But the compelling interest of the state to bar discrimination on the basis of inherent characteristics, including sexual orientation, requires that the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom cannot be the basis to deny another individual their own rights to liberty." - Rabbi Saperstein

Contact: Sean Thibault or Sophie Golomb
news@rac.org | (202) 387-2800


Washington DC February 21, 2014 - In response to legislation passed by the Arizona legislature and similar bills in several states nationwide, each of which permits discrimination against gays, lesbians and others under the claim of "religious freedom," Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

"The legislation passed by the Arizona legislature and pending before Gov. Jan Brewer that would allow discrimination against gays, lesbians and others in the name of religious freedom does not reflect the values of equality and religious liberty upon which this nation was founded. The bill should be rejected. The history of the United States has been one of expanding protections against discrimination. This was true for women, African Americans and now, LGBT Americans, who for too many generations faced state-sanctioned bias because of who they were. Today, thanks to legislation, constitutional amendments, and Supreme Court rulings, such discrimination is increasingly a relic of history and this dangerous bill would turn back the clock.

The Reform Movement has long held that all people, regardless of their sexuality, are created b'tselem Elohim, in the divine image, and as such are worthy of dignity and respect. We are deeply offended by those in Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee, and Idaho (where similar bills are pending) who seek to revive state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the name of religion. So too we respect each individual’s right to their deeply held religious beliefs. But the compelling interest of the state to bar discrimination on the basis of inherent characteristics, including sexual orientation, requires that the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom cannot be the basis to deny another individual their own rights to liberty. This is especially true when those who wish to discriminate provide a "public accommodation."

Barring discrimination in public accommodation, even when the provider has heartfelt conscience or religious objections to those they serve, has been an indispensable foundation of our civil rights achievements on the basis of race, age, national origin, and disability. So too with sexual orientation.

The Reform Movement maintains both a longtime commitment to the rights of people regardless of sexual orientation and a profound respect for religious liberty. And though houses of worship and religiously affiliated institutions in the use of non-governmental funds are rightly accommodated under anti-discrimination law to ensure that the government does not inhibit their ability to fulfill their religious mandate, private individuals and business must not be allowed to discriminate in public accommodation even while claiming "religious freedom." Discrimination, no matter what it is called, remains discrimination.

We oppose any effort in Arizona and other states to relegate gay and lesbian couples to second-class citizenship and call on Gov. Brewer to veto this harmful legislation."



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