NEW YORK, NY (April 3, 2023) The Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis, has long held that each person reflects and refracts G*d’s own Image (tzelem Elohim) and inheres with inestimable worth and preciousness (k’vod habriyot). These values hold regardless of gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. The RA has affirmed these values in rendering Jewish legal decisions and resolutions. The RA’s record of inclusion now spans over decades. In keeping with this record and in response to the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ+ laws approved by state legislatures across the US, particularly in Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Dakota, the RA issues the following statement:
We, the Rabbinical Assembly, condemn the attempt to demonize and marginalize the LGBTQ+ community through the introduction of a spate of anti-LGBTQ+ laws currently being introduced in state houses throughout the US. Since the start of the calendar year, over 425 such bills have been introduced. These bills cause harm and promote unfair and unequal treatment to LGBTQ+ persons.
These bills attempt to limit the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ persons in a wide number of areas, including:
- access to healthcare, particularly for transgender adolescents, in opposition to best-practice medical standards of care, by targeting not only transgender persons, but doctors, medical facilities, and insurance agencies;
- education, by censoring learning and discussion around sexual orientation and gender identity and by insisting on highly invasive gender “tests” in order for LGBTQ+ adolescents to participate in student life;
- business, by punishing small businesses which create safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and by allowing others to discriminate against LGBTQ+ persons in providing goods and services;
- civic life, by preempting local nondiscrimination ordinances and other protections, by censoring, and even banning, speech or performances about LGBTQ+ life, and by preventing trans athletes from participating in sports;
- legal documentation, limiting the ability of transgender persons from updating gender information on official records, such as birth certificates and driver licenses, placing transgender people at risk for facing harassment and losing their jobs;
As the international association of Conservative and Masorti rabbis, we affirm the tzelem Elohim, innate worth and godliness of all persons and the right of k’vod habriyot, human dignity, for all people. We are committed to the full welcome, acceptance, and inclusion of all persons, embracing them in their understanding of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
We urge all Conservative Movement synagogues, schools, institutions, and organizations to:
- be informed about the specific legislation in their state and locality and to monitor developments [a number of sites help to monitor/track such bills, including the ACLU, Freedom for All Americans, and Equality Federation]
- meet with or write to legislators as appropriate asking them not to sponsor, promote, or vote for legislation demeaning LGBTQ+ persons or limiting their rights
- galvanize their constituents to write letters or join rallies expressing concern about this legislation
- form working relationships with other faith groups and civic organizations in asking for equal treatment of all citizens and the affording of dignity to LGBTQ+ people
1 See, for example, “Homosexuality, Human Dignity & Halakhah: A Combined Responsum for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards” by Rabbis Elliot N. Dorff, Daniel S. Nevins & Avram I. Reisner [adopted in 2006] and “Transgender Jews and Halakhah” by Rabbi Leonard A. Sharzer [adopted in 2017].
2 See, for example, “Resolution in Support of Equal Rights and Inclusion for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, And Transgender (GLBT) Persons” [passed in 2011] and “Resolution Affirming the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People” [passed in 2016]. Most of these recent examples cite previous RA work and efforts from decades earlier.