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Outcomes of State Ballot Initiatives Prove Both Troubling, Celebratory to Reform Jews

Saperstein: “Despite numerous triumphs, we cannot overstate our disappointment in the passage of several ballot measures that will restrict civil rights.”

Contact: Kate Bigam
202.387.2800 |

WASHINGTON, DC, November 6, 2008 — In response to the results of several state ballot initiatives on issues of importance to the Reform Jewish Movement, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement.

The election this week of our nation’s first African-American president is an historic occasion. Regardless of political affiliation, all Americans should be proud of the breaking of a societal barrier that has existed for a shamefully long period in our nation’s history. However, Election Day also produced outcomes on numerous state ballot initiatives that speak to our moral convictions as Reform Jews.

Several state ballots included harmful initiatives restricting women’s reproductive rights, and we applaud the defeat, in particular, of the South Dakota Abortion Ban, which would have prohibited abortion in all situations except for those performed because of rape or medical necessity. Initiatives to restrict reproductive rights in Colorado and California also failed, assuring that the right of women in those states to remain in control of their own bodies is preserved.

We laud the defeat of troubling anti-immigrant initiatives in Oregon and Arizona and welcome several other initiatives that align with our Reform Jewish values: The Healthy Montana Kids Plan Act will establish a health insurance coverage plan for all uninsured Montanan children, and the Missouri Renewable Electricity Standard will spur greater usage of greener forms of energy. We also celebrate two significant victories in Michigan, where the newly passed Medical Marijuana Act will help bring relief to patients with debilitating medical conditions, and the Stem Cell Initiative will allow much-needed medical research and hopefully bring us closer to treatment or cures for a host of illnesses.

Despite these numerous triumphs, however, we cannot overstate our disappointment in the passage of several ballot measures that will restrict civil rights. We mourn the passage of a Nebraska bill that will effectively put an end to end affirmative action in the state by amending the Nebraska constitution, despite Coloradan’s rejection of a similar measure.  And we express our overwhelming disappointment in the passage of three state initiatives that will make illegal same-sex marriage. These devastating blows to marriage equality in California, Arizona and Florida remind us of how much work remains to be done to ensure the civil rights of all Americans. We are all created b’tselem elohim, in the image of the Divine, and bearing this teaching in mind, we renew our vow to fight for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in marriage and in all aspects of life.



The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.

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