Here's How to Advocate for Equality This Pride Month and Beyond

June 9, 2020Jamie Starr

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 God (Genesis 1:27). All of us reflect the beauty and goodness of God, 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 Jewish community's advocacy for LGBTQ+ equality.

But there is more to be learned from that story in Genesis. God took an additional step while creating the world and its inhabitants: after each work of creation, God took a moment to appreciate that it was good. At the end of the sixth day, before establishing Shabbat as a day of rest, “God saw all that God had made, and found it very good.” (Genesis 1:31). One might say that God was proud of creation – and just as God was proud of God’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 50 states in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Reform Jewish community celebrated the decision, but we recognize 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. (Hear Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action of Reform Judaism, speak about the Reform community's support for this legislation.)

The HEROES Act, the latest COVID-19 emergency response package passed by the House of Representatives, also 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.

The Reform Jewish Movement is 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 people 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 using our easy action alert tool to write to Congress in support of the Equality Act.

This year, let us frame our advocacy efforts as an act of celebration, an act of pride so that when we step back and look at our eclectic communities and just society – one where all feel comfortable, welcome, and heard – we too can say, “[A]nd it was good.”

For more resources on Pride Month and LGBTQ+ equality:

  1. Check out our suggestions for observing Pride Month this year and creating more inclusive Jewish spaces all year round.
  2. Create your own virtual Pride Shabbat using our guide to LGBTQ liturgy and programs.
  3. Join Keshet’s community-wide Pride Havdalah, held June 13 at 8:30pm ET.
  4. Don't forget to use the Religious Action Center action alert on the Equality Act to contact your elected officials.

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