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Reform Jewish Leader Praises Administration Plan to Bar LGBT Discrimination in Federal Contracts

Reform Jewish Leader Praises Administration Plan to Bar LGBT Discrimination in Federal Contracts

In response to reports that the administration will ban discrimination by federal contractors against LGBT workers, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement:

“We are elated by the reports of the President’s decision today to sign two executive orders, extending workplace protection to LGBT employees of federal contractors and to transgender employees of the federal government. We commend President Obama for these important steps affirming that the government should not fund discrimination through its contracts.  These orders represent a significant step in ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace. They expand the Administration’s consistently robust efforts to protect the fundamental rights of LGBT people (as it has done through key steps such as its support for marriage equality and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act). According to the Williams Institute, this executive order would protect 14 million more workers whose employers or states do not already uphold non-discrimination policies. Moreover, this order will demonstrate to Congress that workplace protection for LGBT employees is good for individuals and good for business.

We had hoped the President might use this opportunity to reverse the Bush executive order allowing for religious discrimination by religious organizations receiving federal contracts.  While in some instances, religious exemptions allow faith organizations and houses of worship (when they are using their own funds) to carry out their missions without interference, when taxpayer funds are involved, there should never be discrimination.  We recognize that the religious community is split on such issues and thoughtful religious leaders and organizations had called for an even broader religious exemption allowing for them not to be covered by this executive order.  The President rejected such requests and while we disagree with the administration’s decision to maintain the Bush executive order, we appreciate that the President was attempting to express his commitment to the competing religious liberty and civil rights concerns involved.  Nonetheless, we hope that the time will soon come, in which the principle that no one’s tax dollars should be used to discriminate against them in employment will become the norm of our nation.

As Reform Jews and as Americans, it is our moral imperative to build a fair society where all people are judged by the merit of their work and not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to the implementation of these orders in the coming months and will continue to work towards passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) so that all workers have the opportunity to earn a living without fear of discrimination.”

Sophie Golomb is a 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. She graduated in 2013 from Brandeis University and is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.

Sophie Golomb