THE BLOG
08/14/2015 12:12 pm ET Updated Aug 14, 2016

The Equality Act Would Provide Comprehensive LGBT Civil Rights. It's About Time.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

When we heard the news that the United States Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 to strike down bans on same-sex marriage, we were thrilled. Reform Judaism, led by the Reform Rabbinate of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, has long advocated for the rights of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and this decision brought our world one step closer to fully realizing that we are all created b'tzelem Elohim, in the divine image.

But we also realized that this was just one step, and that the fight for full equality for LGBTQ Americans must continue. Despite how pleased we were with the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, in many states, members of the LGBTQ community are still at risk of losing their jobs for their sexual orientation, lack protection from physical violence, or are denied rights to hospital visits with ill spouses.

At the moment, only 19 states ban discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity, and three ban discrimination based on sexual orientation solely. Just as the tide of love and equal marriage rights swept the nation with the Obergefell v Hodges decision, now too must the demand for equal treatment and equal protection be enforced nationwide. This is why we're expressing our strong support for the Equality Act, which was just introduced to Congress, and urge its swift adoption.

The Equality Act would at long last provide equal protection from discrimination to all Americans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It would build on the Civil Rights Act by amending and expanding existing laws that have been incredibly impactful in reducing discrimination based on race and adding protections for Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, education and many other areas of public life.

And just as Reform Judaism was active at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement fighting racial discrimination and advancing the cause of racial equality - though there continues to be much work to be done on this front as well - Reform Rabbis and the communities we lead will continue to fight for full inclusion and equality for the LGBTQ community.

Reform Judaism was one of the first branches of Jewish groups to support LGBTQ rights. The Central Conference of American Rabbis - the Rabbinical leadership organization of the Reform Movement - endorsed full equality before the law for gay and lesbian Americans in 1977. In 1996, CCAR endorsed a resolution supporting the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage.

Building on these calls for equality, the CCAR passed a resolution in 2000 stating that, "the relationship of a Jewish, same-gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual." Any individuals worthy of this admiration and affirmation through our rituals is also worthy of - and the United States government is morally obliged to afford - legal protection from biased policies because of their identity.

Reform Rabbis and the Reform community as a whole, will continue to stand on the side of those who struggle for equality, and lift up their causes. We stand unequivocally for the right of all persons to fulfill their destiny without forfeiting any right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No one should be denied equal access to employment, housing, public accommodations, education, federal funding, credit, or jury selection on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The CCAR has called upon Congress to pass the Equality Act. We urge Congress to act immediately, and for the president to sign and order implement of its protections without delay.

Commentary by Rabbi Steven A. Fox and Rabbi Hara Person. Rabbi Fox is the CEO of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the rabbinic leadership organization of Reform Judaism in North America and worldwide. Rabbi Person is the publisher and director of the CCAR Press, where she works with CCAR leadership and members to produce books and other publications for rabbis, congregations, and the Jewish community.