One of the first things we learn in the Torah from the story of creation is that humans were created b’tzelem Elohim – in the holy image of G-d (Genesis 1:27). All of us reflect the beauty and goodness of G-d, and as such, we have a sacred responsibility to treat each other with the dignity, respect, and loving kindness owed to the Divine. It is this belief that guides the Reform Movement’s advocacy for LGBTQ equality.
But there is more to be learned from that story in Genesis. G-d took an additional step while creating the world and its inhabitants: after each work of creation, G-d took a moment to appreciate that it was good. At the end of the sixth day, before establishing Shabbat as a day of rest, “G-d saw all that G-d had made, and found it very good.” (Genesis 1:31). One might say that G-d was proud of creation. And just as G-d was proud of G-d’s creation, we too ought to be proud of our many identities.
The month of June represents LGBTQ Pride Month. Originally established to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, Pride Month is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community, memorialize and honor those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDs, and recommit to our mission of justice for all. This time of pride and celebration, usually marked by colorful parades and joyful gatherings, will look a little different this year. But there are many alternative and impactful ways that we can celebrate safely. One powerful way we can show our pride is by demanding that LGBTQ equality be officially enshrined in law.
In the last decade, much progress has been made in the fight for LGBTQ rights, culminating in 2015 when the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Reform Movement celebrated the decision, but we recognize that there is more work to be done.
Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage, there are currently major gaps in federal law that leave room for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, health care, and other areas. Three major Supreme Court cases on the legality of workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees will be decided this term.
No matter how the Court rules, there is still a role for Congress in protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination. One key piece of legislation we strongly support is the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected characteristics under federal civil rights law. The Equality Act passed in the House of Representatives in May of 2019 with a bipartisan vote.
Additionally, the HEROES Act, the latest COVID-19 emergency response package passed by the House of Representatives, includes nondiscrimination provisions prohibiting that anyone be denied benefits on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill also expands federal support for mental health resources for LGBTQ youth. We are encouraged to see the House prioritizing issues directly impacting the lives of LGBTQ Americans, but the Senate has yet to consider the Equality Act or LGBTQ provisions in a COVID-19 response bill.
That is where we, as a movement committed to social justice, have a role to play. We are making our voices heard and demanding that the U.S. Senate pass the Equality Act and end the legality of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. You can join us in this effort right now by filling out our action alert on the Equality Act.
This year let us frame our advocacy efforts as an act of celebration, an act of pride. So, when we step back and look at our eclectic communities and just society, where all feel comfortable, welcome, and heard, we too can say, “and it was good.”
For more resources on Pride Month and LGBTQ Equality:
- Fill out the Religious Action Center action alert on the Equality Act.
- Read the Reform Movement’s congregational guide to celebrating Pride Month and creating more inclusive Jewish spaces.
- Create your own virtual Pride Shabbat using our guide to LGBTQ liturgy and programs.
- Join Keshet’s community-wide Pride Havdalah on June 13th at 8:30pm ET