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January 2015

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Last month, I wrote about the importance of ensuring that our advocacy is trans inclusive, however, trans individuals are not the only people who are commonly erased in larger conversations about LGBT rights. Often times, the ‘B’ in LGBT is also overlooked, leading to the erasure and, at times, even rejection of bisexual identities.

You may not have seen it last night, but Rachel Maddow interviewed Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the RAC's new director. You can watch the entire clip below, but essentially, Rabbi Pesner was responding to political leaders accepting support and funding from a hate group in making an important trip to Israel.

Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a historic bill to help close the gender wage gap that persists in the United States. The very first bill President Obama signed into law, the Ledbetter Act came in response to a Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), in which the Court held that because Lilly did not file her suit within 180 days of her first discriminatory paycheck, she did not have standing to file for wage discrimination. But, Lilly could not have filed her suit at that time because she did not discover she was being paid less than her male counterparts over the course of many years.

Momentum is growing to raise the federal minimum wage.

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama advocated for policies to support minimum wage workers: he called on Congress to “vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

President Obama also challenged those who oppose raising the minimum wage to imagine what life would be like on a minimum wage lifestyle: “and to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”

Far too many Americans do not have to imagine what it is like to live a low income lifestyle: it is their reality, day in and day out. At its current rate of $7.25/hour, the federal minimum wage is worth about 23% less than it was worth in the late 1960s. Since workers are not paid enough, workers have to turn to federal safety net programs since they’re paid too little at work to make ends meet on their own.

It’s been just 29 days since I last gave an update on new elections for the Israeli Knesset, but there has been no shortage of newsworthy developments from the Jewish State. With only seven weeks left until Israelis go to the polls, parties (and party leaders) are frantically posturing for their party to look the most attractive to voters on Election Day.

Just one week ago, on January 22, 2015, following a request by Member States in October 2014, the UN General Assembly convened a meeting to address concerns of a rise in anti-Semitism and related violence around the world. Representatives from some 60 countries came to speak about the necessity of stamping out anti-Semitic violence and discrimination worldwide.

On Monday, Saks Fifth Avenue backtracked on its claim that they had the right to discriminate against employees for being transgender. Earlier this month, Leyth Jamal, a transgender woman who had worked at Saks Fifth Avenue, filed a lawsuit against her former employer for fostering a hostile work environment which culminated in her firing. Saks Fifth Avenue originally filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that trans identities are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination (not discrimination based on sexual orientation). Although Saks Fifth Avenue withdrew this motion, the discrimination that Jamal faces, as well as the continuous fight on the state level against anti-LGBT legislation, illustrate the urgent need for comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation.

This week is so-called School Choice Week (January 25-31), when pro-vouchers advocates try to take over the narrative and promote their views that the privatization of public funding into vouchers and tax credits promotes educational opportunities and expands choices for parents and students.

They could not be more wrong.

Welcome to the Jewish month of Shevat and (if you’re on the East Coast) to Storm Juno. While you’re inside waiting out the snow, take this time as an opportunity to take the Green Sh’vat Challenge and make your life a little greener. Unfortunately, massive snowstorms don’t counteract the fact that climate change is real, human-caused and happening quickly. The Green Shevat Challenge is one small, easy way to reduce our carbon footprint by making small changes to our daily routines.

Now that it is January and the peak of flu season, many Americans will be struggling to stay healthy more than ever. Over 40 million Americans do not currently have access to paid sick days, and we need to take action to ensure that more people do not have to make the difficult choice between going to work and caring for a sick loved one (or themselves).