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Washington, D.C., May 2, 2016 – In response to numerous anti-LGBT laws being introduced, and in many cases passed, at the state-level, the leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the North American Federation of Temple Youth and the American Conference of Cantors issued the following statement:
"As leaders in the Reform Jewish Movement, we are deeply troubled by the sharp rise in legislation being proposed and in too many cases passed at the state level that affirms rights to discriminate against the LGBT community. We are especially concerned that such legislation is often falsely justified by appeals to religious freedom rights.
We know personally and professionally how the United States, through our Constitution and laws, has protected, ensured and enhanced religious freedom and religious diversity. Such freedom has allowed the Jewish people – and people of all faiths – to flourish in this country to a degree nearly unmatched anywhere else in the world. As Jews remain a religious minority in every state, we also know the importance of maintaining a balance between religious freedom and the many other rights and freedoms that define who we are as Americans. Any laws that aim to impinge on or imperil an individual’s fundamental dignity and humanity must be rejected.
Over the past few weeks, legislation has been introduced and/or become law in Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee, to name only a few states, that would, in all or in part:
- Irrevocably tilt the balance in favor of religious freedom against laws that protect against discrimination, without even the opportunity to assess the appropriate equilibrium for each situation;
- Permit taxpayer-funded discrimination, especially in employment; and
- Target LGBT people by overturning existing non-discrimination protections, or render this community even more vulnerable, such as by barring transgender or gender-nonconforming people using facilities of the gender with which they identify.
We stand united against these proposals, and any similar legislation at the state or federal level. These bills defy our values as Reform Jews and as Americans. In this Passover season, as we celebrate liberation and redemption around our seder tables and in our communities, we are obligated to taste maror, the bitter herb, to feel the oppression that the Israelites faced in Egypt. The story, rituals and values of Passover remind us of the many people in our society who still know the bitterness of reprehensible discrimination, and that we must act to ensure that all people are treated equally, with dignity and respect.
That such harmful state-level bills are being introduced clearly demonstrates the need for federal non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community. We call on Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, federal funding, education, credit and jury selection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. These long-overdue protections for the LGBT community would bring us closer to wholeness, justice and peace for all people."
|Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President
Daryl Messinger, Chair
Union for Reform Judaism
Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO
|Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
|Isabel P. Dunst, Chair
Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
|Jeremy Cronig, President
Kathryn Fleisher, Incoming President
North American Federation of Temple Youth
Cantor Mark Goldman, President
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.