Every June, Pride Month offers 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. June 28, 2019, will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic Stonewall uprising, widely considered to be the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ equality movement, which has given Pride Month 2019 added significance.
Since the passage of a groundbreaking resolution by the Women of Reform Judaism in 1965, the Reform Jewish community 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 sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
What You Can Do
As the end of Pride Month 2019 approaches, plenty of work remains. Here are four important actions you can take long beyond the end of June:
- Write to Congress: Urge your Senators to support the Equality Act. The House has passed the bill, and now the Senate must act to ensure that all LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination, no matter where in the U.S. they live.
- Guide your congregation’s work: Download the Union for Reform Judaism’s Audacious Hospitality Pilot Toolkit to learn how your Jewish community can embrace its diversity and become more inclusive for LGBTQ community members.
- Raise up LGBTQ voices: It’s vital that the fight for LGBTQ equality center around the stories, experiences, voices, and advocacy of LGBTQ individuals themselves – and those of us who aspire to be good allies can do our part by amplifying them. To start, check out (and consider sharing) the many personal essays about LGBTQ life shared right here on ReformJudaism.org.
- Educate yourself about equality issues: When it comes to advocacy work, knowledge is power. Do your part to learn more about recent victories for LGBTQ equality, ongoing challenges, and the work to come, including how you can act for a better and more just society.
On that last point, why not start now? Let’s talk about what’s going on the world right now when it comes to issues of LGBTQ equality.
Recent Victories for Equality
The arrival of this year’s Pride Month was particularly exciting because it came on the heels of notable legislative victories at both the state and federal level. Since the start of 2019, for example, 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, an historic bill that would amend existing federal civil rights law to include nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Because the majority of states do not have nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals, the Equality Act is a necessary step to ensure consistent protections across the country. (Again, you can help by urging your Senators to support the Equality Act.)
In the days leading up to the House vote on the Equality Act, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), spoke at an interfaith press conference on Capitol Hill to mobilize people of faith around the bill. The RAC also wrote a letter to Congress, signed by 15 national Jewish organizations and 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, the governing body of Reform Jewish rabbis, for supporting the Equality Act. It was thrilling to see our rabbis recognized on the House floor.
Recent Setbacks in the Fight for Equality
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 bars new transgender recruits and prevents enlisted soldiers from transitioning – went into effect after months of federal court injunctions.
- Just before Memorial Day, 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.
- 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 – and we won’t stop until we get there.
Learn more about the Reform Jewish community’s work on LGBTQ issues by visiting rac.org/lgbt.