As part of our continued series of speeches from our weekend with the RAC below is a speech by Alex Math and Anna Curran on LGBTQ Rights. The views that follow are those of the Religious Action Center, the political advocacy wing of the Reform movement, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Temple Beth David.
Hello (Senator Murphy/Representative Hayes). We are Alex Math and Anna Curran and we are from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. We would like to thank you for your continued support of The Equality Act, which is Senate Bill 788/ House of Representatives Bill 5. Your continued support has made the lives of millions of the LGBTQ+ community better.
Even over 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, members of the LGBTQ+ community are still not protected against discrimination in employment, public accommodations, credit, education, federally funded programs, and jury service. While in some states, including our own, have enacted nondiscrimination provisions for members of the LGBTQ+ community, twenty six states still do not have any nondiscrimination protections for gender identity and sexual orientation in regards to housing and employment. Twenty seven states do not have nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations. This means that LGBTQ+ people can be charged more for services and housing and have difficulty finding employment in certain states.
In the 2015 US Transgender Survey it was found that thirty one percent of transgender individuals reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in a place of public accommodation. In 2016 one in four LGBTQ+ Americans reported having experienced discrimination. According to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics, there were 1,130 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2017 which was a five percent increase from 2016. There were also 119 crimes based on gender identity with 106 of these crimes targeting transgender people. The Human Rights Campaign 2018 Healthcare Equality Index reported that seventy percent of transgender and gender nonconforming patients and fifty six percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients experienced some form of discrimination in health care. By supporting this act you are helping to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination and working to make it possible for all Americans to experience the same rights and liberties.
In Judaism, we have a term called b’tselem Elohim, meaning ‘created in the image of God’. As we are all God’s children, we are all b’tselem Elohim. That means that every part of us were made in God’s image, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and everything in between. As the famous Rabeun Zellman noted, “[The Mishna] goes on to say that people of intermediate sex and gender were not to be harmed, their lives were of equal value to any other person’s…. This Jewish approach allows for genders between male and female. It opens space in society. And it protects those who live in the places in between.” Additionally, across Jewish legal codes and rabbinic commentary, there are hundreds of references to at least six different genders, if not more. This all can be summed up wonderfully in the words of Rabbi Janet Marder, former president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. She wrote that “The Jewish values and principles which I regard as eternal, transcendent and divinely ordained do not condemn homosexuality. The Judaism I cherish and affirm teaches love of humanity, respect for the spark of divinity in every person and the human right to live with dignity. The God I worship endorses loving, responsible and committed human relationships, regardless of the sex of the persons involved.”
We would like to thank you once more for your support of this bill and our community and ask for your continued support of our rights. We would like to create an America where all people are given the same freedoms and opportunities. With your support we can change our country for the better by protecting all people no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation is.