U.S. Reform Jews adopt sweeping transgender rights policy

Thu Nov 5, 2015 3:20pm EST
 
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Temples and synagogues affiliated with the nation's largest Jewish movement should take specific steps to embrace transgender people, a U.S. conference of Reform Jews urged on Thursday in approving a groundbreaking resolution.

In a resounding voice vote, Reform Judaism embraced some of the most far-reaching policies for transgender people seen among any of the nation's mainstream religious organizations, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) right advocates said.

The resolution calls for congregations to offer cultural training for religious school staff, sermons on transgender issues and gender-neutral restrooms where feasible.

The measure generated little discord among the 1.5 million North America Jews affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, which is holding a biennial conference in Orlando, Florida.

"We have gay, lesbian, the whole rainbow members and on our board of trustees," said Ken Snitz from Temple Israel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "We're very open and supportive. We don't just say it. We practice it."

The Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ also have adopted positions in support of transgender issues. Yet the Reform Jewish movement’s policy goes further by listing specific actions to promote inclusion, said Michael Toumayan of the national Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay rights.

"It’s a big deal, but at the same time it’s not controversial for them at all," he said.

It is Reform Judaism’s first anti-discrimination policy on transgender issues, said Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a Washington-based advocacy center.   Continued...

 
A gender-neutral bathroom is seen at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson