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Pride Month: Victories for LGBTQ equality and the work ahead

Pride Month: Victories for LGBTQ equality and the work ahead

Here's how you can help further LGBTQ rights this June

The Religious Action Center contingent marches in the 2018 Capital Pride Parade with banner

Every June, Pride Month offers us an opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ equality and recommit to fighting for full inclusion for everyone in the LGBTQ community. Pride Month began in the 1970s to commemorate the Stonewall uprising in June 1969,  a major turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement. Because this year is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, Pride Month 2019 has added significance.

Scroll to the bottom of this post to find four ways you can take action this Pride Month

Since the passage of a groundbreaking resolution by the Women of Reform Judaism in 1965, the Reform Jewish Movement has been engaged in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Our work is guided by the belief that all people are created in the Divine image and deserve dignity, respect, and equal treatment under the law – regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Jewish legal codes and rabbinic commentary include hundreds of references to at least six different genders and our texts proudly affirm the existence of transgender, intersex, and genderfluid individuals.  

This year’s Pride Month is particularly exciting because it comes on the heels of notable legislative victories at the state and federal level. Since the beginning of this year, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York have all banned the dangerous practice of conversion therapy, bringing the nationwide total of states with bans to 18. And just last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, a historic bill which would amend existing federal civil rights law to include nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The majority of states do not have nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, so the Equality Act is necessary to ensure consistent protections across the country.

In the days leading up to the House vote on the Equality Act, Director of the RAC Rabbi Jonah Pesner spoke at an interfaith press conference on Capitol Hill to mobilize people of faith around the bill. We also wrote a letter to Congress signed by 15 national Jewish organizations outlining strong support for the Equality Act within the Jewish community.

Our efforts did not go unnoticed. In his speech just prior to the vote, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler gave a shout-out to the Central Conference of American Rabbis for supporting the Equality Act. It was thrilling to see our rabbis recognized on the House floor.

Despite these successes, we have also witnessed many alarming setbacks since last Pride Month, particularly for the transgender community. Last October, the New York Times uncovered a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services detailing purported efforts to adopt a narrow legal definition of sex, essentially erasing federal recognition for transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming Americans. In April, President Trump’s discriminatory transgender military ban – which barsnew transgender recruits and prevents  enlisted soldiers from transitioning – went into effect after months of federal court injunctions. Then, just before Memorial Day weekend, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a policy that would allow federally-funded homeless shelters to turn away transgender people or force them to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity. Only days later, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed rolling back critical nondiscrimination protections for transgender people trying to access health care. And beyond these harmful policy developments,  violence against transgender people – especially transgender women of color – remains an epidemic, with at least eight Black transgender women murdered thus far in 2019.

Clearly, the fight for LGBTQ equality is far from over. We continue to strive for equal protection and inclusion in our communities. With this in mind, here are four important actions you can take this Pride Month and beyond:

  1. Urge your Senators to support the Equality Act. The House has done its job, but now the Senate must act to ensure that all LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination no matter where they live.  

  2. Download the URJ’s Audacious Hospitality Pilot Toolkit to learn how your congregation can embrace its diversity and become more inclusive for LGBTQ community members.

  3. Host a Pride Shabbat using these resources from the RAC to help your community learn about the connection between Judaism and LGBTQ equality.

  4. If you live in Washington DC, join us for the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8. Learn more and RSVP here.

Jacob Greenblatt is a 2018-2019 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. He grew up just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was a member of Temple Beth El. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and Political Science and a Minor in Social and Economic Justice. During college, Jacob was President of UNC Young Democrats, served as a Buckley Public Service Scholar, and interned for Congressman David Price in Washington, DC. He was very involved in Jewish life, working as a front office assistant at UNC Hillel and teaching first grade religious school at a local synagogue. Jacob’s portfolio includes separation of church and state, LGBTQ equality, interfaith issues, Holocaust, world Jewry, anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and judicial nominations. He will also work to support RAC-CA’s priorities.

Jacob Greenblatt

Published: 6/07/2019