NEW YORK (Sep. 27)
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council has adopted a policy statement opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Abstaining from the statement, approved Sept. 21 by NJCRAC’s executive committee, was the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, one of 13 national agencies that are part of NJCRAC. Several of the 117 local community relations agencies abstained as well.
“Protection of homosexual rights has always been implicit in NJCRAC’s broad policy on discrimination,11 said Jerome Chanes, the umbrella group’s co- director for domestic concerns. “This is the first time that adoption of explicit language was on the formal agenda.”
NJCRAC’s policy comes when the debate over lesbian and gay rights is assuming a high profile nationwide. At the Republican national convention in Houston, lesbian and gay rights were painted as being in opposition to “family values,11 an attitude that a measure on the ballot in Oregon would codify into law.
On the other hand, four days after NJCRAC adopted its policy, California Gov. Pete Wilson signed a law banning employment discrimination against homosexuals in his state. Other states with similar policies include Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Wisconsin.
The NJCRAC policy on sexual orientation discrimination has three parts.
The organization “opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodation and education.” It “supports legislation to bar discrimination in these areas.” And it also “supports the incorporation in such legislation of exemptions, that may already exist in other civilrights laws, designed to protect the right of religious institutions to carry out their religious purposes.”
Chanes explained that this third clause reflects the fact that when discussing gay rights, “you have a situation where opposition to discrimination comes into conflict with religious rights, and we felt it was imperative to resolve the conflict.”
The result was that the Orthodox Union was able to abstain from the measure, rather than using its right to veto the statement.
Explaining its abstention, the Orthodox Union stated: “We are opposed to discrimination and vigilantism against any individual or group. The halacha (Jewish law), however, prohibits homosexual activity, and we cannot join in a statement that could be misinterpreted to imply otherwise.”