The Reform Movement has been advocating for LGBTQ+ rights since 1965, when the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. Since then, substantial progress has been made in pursuit of LGBTQ+ equality: the 2009 passage of the Matthew Shepard Act expanded US Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity; the US Senate repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2010, allowing LGBTQ+ people to serve openly in the military; and in 2015 the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal across all 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges. Despite these gains, gaps in US federal nondiscrimination law omit the LGBTQ+ community from protection against discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and others. We must continue to advocate until the LGBTQ+ community is treated with full equality and dignity in society and under law.
Why Should Jews Care
We are guided by a central belief that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image. As it says in Genesis 1:27: “And God created humans in God’s own image, in the image of God, God created them.” Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in an interview with Fox News, "As it says in Genesis, all humans were created in the image of God. And that means that every person, every soul, is a creature of God that looks like God, whether they are transgender or lesbian or gay, and so we welcome all of them." Each of us, created in God’s image, has a unique talent, with which we can contribute to the high moral purpose of tikkun olam, the repair of our world. Excluding anyone from our community lessens our chance of achieving this goal of a more perfect world.
Currently, federal law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit, and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act would amend existing civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination.
2023 is already set to be a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ+ attacks at the state level, with over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country. In 2022, Over 300 such bills were introduced in state legislatures, while governors, state agencies, and local elected officials implemented a range of policies targeting transgender and non-binary people. Your state government has the power to protect the LGBTQ+ community through legislation, ballot initiatives, and more.
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Engage Your Congregation
Partner with a local LGBTQ+ organization to establish your congregation as an ally.
Dedicate religious school and youth program time to discussions and sensitivity trainings related to gender identity and transgender inclusion.
Publicly affirm support for the transgender and gender non-conforming communities from the bimah or in a newsletter.