Time to take action in the new year

Happy New Year! One of the awesome High Holy Day sermons that I heard reminded me, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah” doing one mitzvah leads to doing another. I was also reminded that it is imperative upon each person to do the work to make a difference in the world. Here is one of the first opportunities to do so in the new Jewish year!

Here are the easy steps to take: Join our Call-in campaign for ENDA:-Text “ENDAnow” to 877-877 to receive text instructions, or dial 1- 888-897-0174 to hear talking points, enter your zip code and connect directly to your Senator.

Here’s the rationale and an update on where ENDA stands in the Senate:

As people of faith, we understand that there are moments that demand a moral call to action. At this moment, when we have never had a better chance of securing workplace protections for LGBT community, we must heed that call and reaffirm our support for the civil rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters. It is our sacred duty to make heard our demand for critical legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815/H.R. 1755).

While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in the workplace based on race, sex, religion, ethnicity and national origin – and later laws barred discrimination based on pregnancy and disability – there is no federal law that protects the LGBT community from discrimination in the workplace. ENDA would fix that gap and finally make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, demote or fail to promote someone based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is rapidly growing. The bill now has 53 co-sponsors in the Senate – including Republican Senators Mark Kirk (IL) and Susan Collins (ME) – and 177 cosponsors in the House including three Republican Representatives. Support within the business world is growing as well, with more than 90 major corporations publically endorsing the bill (this is no surprise considering that 88% of Fortune 500 companies already have protections based on sexual orientation and 57% have protections for gender identity). Religious groups are speaking out as well; nearly 50 religious organizations signed onto a letter to the members of the HELP committee urging them to vote for ENDA.

According to recent polls 73% of Americans support the workplace protections promised in this legislation (another survey found that 9 out of 10 voters thought these protections already exist!).

People in states around the country have proven their support for workplace protection by passing laws in 21 states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 17 states that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. These numbers reveal the deep resonance ENDA holds with both our American and religious values.

Workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics which have nothing to do with job performance, denies members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community the full humanity that comes with the ability to earn a living, provide for their families and contribute to society. All of us are diminished when individuals are prevented from reaching their full potential and prohibited from contributing the full measure of their talent and ability to society.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so critical precisely because it ensures that our workplaces operate as meritocracies, ensuring that people are judged based on their ability to perform a job, not on their personal characteristics. It ensures that our society recognizes the fundamental truth of our tradition, that all people are created in the in the image of God.

This bill has been introduced in nearly every Congress for the past twenty years, but has not received a vote in the Senate since 1996. But the tide is turning and the prospects for LGBT rights and ENDA’s passage have never looked better. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee passed ENDA this summer with a strong bi-partisan vote of 15-7 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on the bill in the coming months. It is critical that Senators hear from the religious community that this landmark civil rights legislation is our moral imperative as Americans and as people of faith.

Join our Call-in campaign for ENDA:-Text “ENDAnow” to 877-877 to receive text instructions, or dial 1- 888-897-0174 to hear talking points, enter your zip code and connect directly to your Senator.

About rabbisteinman

I am a rabbi living in North America. I was ordained from HUC-JIR. This is my blog.
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