Despite much progress in the Jewish world and beyond, there's still work to be done to assure acceptance of the LGBT community.
To be a supporter of equal rights and inclusion for the LGBT community is to be on a never-ending rollercoaster ride. For every high, like the slowly building wave of victories for same-sex marriages in federal and state courts, there are lows, like the narrowly averted “gay Jim Crow” laws that conservative lawmakers in Arizona tried to pass last month — a bill that was defeated only after a fierce outcry from a wide array of interests, from local businesses to the NFL, which said it would take next year’s Super Bowl out of the state if the bill passed.
For supporters of Jewish LGBT issues, it is a similar story. There is welcome progress in the form of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s launch of its new LGBT affinity group, Jewish Pride, earlier this month. Yet gays and lesbians in the Orthodox community still struggle with finding acceptance. And while Israel is among the most advanced countries in the world on gay rights, some Israelis face obstacles in places like India and Thailand when it comes to same-sex couples seeking surrogates to help them complete their families.
Despite the work still needed to attain true equality in both the United States and Israel, the climate in these countries is “next level,” especially when framed against the staggering array of intolerance on display around the world — from the pre-Sochi Olympics pronouncements by Russian President Vladimir Putin that anyone displaying homosexual behavior would be dealt with severely, to the Ugandan government’s passage of one of the most draconian laws on the planet — a life sentence for anyone convicted of the “offense of homosexuality.”
Ultimately, even if the federal government and all 50 states pass the laws that will create an even playing field for everyone in the United States, the struggle won’t be over. Just as the election of President Barack Obama didn’t mean we had entered into a post-racial America, just as the election of President John F. Kennedy didn’t mean we had entered into a post-religious America, the passage of such laws won’t mean that we have entered into a post-sexual orientation America. We still will have to work hard to ensure that those rights are enforced here, and that they can be used to inspire hope and change in the global community.