By Jonathan Lipton
(To hear more religious leaders who support the NDO, head to City Hall at 2 p.m. for the Faith Leaders Rally for Equality, Justice and Healing)
During the past few weeks, the City of San Antonio has been consumed by the local and national media’s attention on the upcoming vote on the Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO). People from across the country, and in our own city, have expressed their opinions, coming down definitively on one side or the other. Yet, it seems that members of the religious community have distanced themselves and remain wary of the implications of the bill. That is why I, as a leader in the Jewish community, and as the son of a Jewish clergyman in San Antonio, want to explain why equality and acceptance is a Jewish value, and a religious imperative.
As children growing up, whatever our religious proclivity, our parents instilled in us the maxim of the “golden rule,” the notion that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. At its very core, the NDO tests our commitment to this idea, as it seeks to ensure that individuals are treated with the same dignity and respect that we demand for ourselves.
The Jewish faith embraces this principle in its Biblical statement of B’tzelem Elohim, an affirmation that we are all created in the image of God. Though this notion is a Jewish value, it is certainly also at the root of our humanity. Whatever your faith or ideology, no human being is lesser than another. We are each unique, and we are all citizens of humanity.
As I peruse the NDO draft it is clear that the City Council has assimilated this Jewish value into the pending legislation. The purpose of the NDO is to ensure that the City of San Antonio is one that is inclusive to all, one that expects all individuals be treated with the dignity we demand and acknowledges that despite our differences, all individuals are created equally.
The City Council has gone above and beyond to consult and include the suggestions of religious leaders, more than any other community that has passed similar legislation, to ensure that all voices are heard and included.
Jewish Americans across the country overwhelmingly support the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Both the Reform and Conservative movements allow openly gay and lesbian individuals to serve in the clergy and to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Jewish clergy in San Antonio have spoken out in favor of the NDO, and a 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 81 percent of Jewish Americans support Marriage Equality.
As a gay Jewish leader, I am proud of the acceptance demonstrated throughout the US Jewish community. As we mark the Jewish New Year in the coming week with Rosh Hashanah, let us as a community—Jewish and non Jewish leaders alike—affix our chatimah, our signature, and support the Non-Discrimination Ordinance. Our values of inclusion and acceptance require that we support this essential piece of legislation to ensure that no member of our congregations, organizations or communities-at-large is discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.