Striving for Equality
The following post is the text of a speech that was presented on Monday to staff in Representative Gary Ackerman's office by Zoe Kline, Emily Singer, Jamie Kula, and Allison Kobrick. All four high school students they attended the RAC's Bernard and Audre Rapoport L'Taken Social Justice Seminar last weekend.
Is it right for a man to be fired because he is gay?
Is it moral for a woman to be demoted just because she is a lesbian?
Doesn't the constitution state that all men are created equal?
Why is this acceptable if we are taught that all men are created in God's image as unique individuals?
America was founded on the idea that "all men are created equal." As a nation, we strive to uphold this belief, but we are not doing as much as we should and could be. Our Pledge of Allegiance states, "With liberty and justice for all." This statement does not say, "with liberty and justice for all except lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. So, why are they not being protected as well as the rest of the country? Although 89% of Americans feel strongly that gay and lesbians should be protected and 87% of the Fortune 500 companies have taken it upon themselves to not discriminate, it is a shame that, there is not yet a federal law against discrimination. Why is it that in 31 states it is still legal to fire, refuse to hire, demote or fail to promote an employee based on his or her sexual orientation. Why is it that in our military, gay soldiers are being dishonorably discharged because of their sexual orientation? In a country that is struggling in war at this moment, why should we turn down people ready, willing and able to fight for this country?
This issue also speaks to us as a Jewish community. The book of Genesis, found within Judaism's most important foundational text, the Torah, states, "God created man in God's own image, in the image of god, God created him; male and female, God created them." This passage describes that god created us all as individuals and each person unique. People shouldn't be discriminated because of how they were created by God.
In 1977, the Union for Reform Judaism supported rights for homosexuals, saying, "Homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection under the law." Our history has taught us that the discrimination against any person is wrong and as a Jewish community we want to inform people to vote and to protect the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. As a member of the Temple Sinai community, we are proud to say that our synagogue has an active gay and lesbian inclusion committee. We try to educate people in our congregation regarding equality.
Now I would like to share a personal story with you about how the issues of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people relate to me, and the people around me. I have a friend who decided to come out and tell the whole school he was gay. He could no longer keep it in, nor wanted to. At a school assembly he got up on stage and spoke to the whole student body about his sexual orientation. He felt like a new person, until he went back to his seat. People who were his friends moments ago looked at him in disgust. As he walked through the hallways over the next few weeks he received dirty looks, comments, and even vandalism of his property. Intolerance such as that cannot be allowed in our society. A brave boy who reveals his true self shouldn't be discriminated against. We commend Congressman Ackerman and his colleagues for supporting the rights and equality of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. Their work has made the lives of these children and adults that much better.
We would like to thank Congressman Ackerman for supporting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017) and helping to protect the fundamental rights of GLBT Americans. Sexual orientation and gender identity are core components of people's lives, and we need to respect that at every level. As a nation, what are we, if not for liberty and justice for all? ENDA highlights those very values. As Americans, Jews, and young adults, we appreciate Congressman Ackerman's work on this issue, and we wish him continued strength as he moves forward, striving for equality.