Reform backs transgendered protections

The Reform movement is backing an amendment that would extend workplace protections to the transgendered.

Jewish groups have broadly supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, due to be considered this week by the U.S. House of Representatives, which would ban workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians. A broad exemption for religious organizations persuaded the Orthodox Union not to actively oppose it.

However, its failure to mention the transgendered has stirred strong opposition in recent weeks from some gay rights groups. On Tuesday, the Reform’s Religious Action Center backed an amendment by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) that would protect transgendered employees as well.

“Extending workplace protections to the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community bolsters the moral power of this legislation,” the center said in a statement. It goes on to say, “As Reform Jews, we are guided by Jewish tradition and text that teaches us that all human beings are created b’tselem Elohim, in the Divine image.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the Jewish and openly gay chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has said specifying transgendered protections now would kill the act.

“We have the votes to pass a bill today in the House that would ban discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation, but sadly we don’t yet have it on gender identity,” Frank said in a House speech earlier this month. “Denying reality not only doesn’t change it, it makes it harder to overcome it. That’s where we are.”

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