US Jewish groups laud government’s transgender protections

Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, National Council for Jewish Women, ADL hail directives in schools

A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images/AFP)
A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill on May 11, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — Amid controversy over new protections President Barack Obama has extended to transgender people, a number of Jewish groups have welcomed them.

A statement Friday from the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center praised the guidance issued the same day by the Justice and Education departments requiring that schools receiving federal funds end discrimination based on sexual identification.

“We urge all public schools to swiftly and fully comply with this directive so that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” the RAC statement said.

The guidance, which warns that failure to comply could cost schools federal money, says students must access restrooms, shower facilities and other sex-segregated areas based on their gender identity, not on their gender as recorded at birth.

A number of states and local authorities have said they will ignore the guidance; some have threatened to sue the federal government over it.

The National Council for Jewish Women said the guidance “provides needed clarity and best practices for public school districts and institutions of higher learning.”

Also praising the guidance was Rabbi Jack Moline, who directs Interfaith Alliance, a coalition that includes major Jewish national groups.

“No matter whether antipathy toward transgender Americans is motivated by ignorance or a particular – misguided, I believe – theological understanding of gender, neither has a place in our public schools,” he said in a statement.

A statement from Bend the Arc praised both the guidance to schools and a new rule from the Department of Health and Human Services extending protections to those discriminated against because of their gender identity.

The rule will have the effect of requiring insurers to at least consider coverage of procedures related to gender change, and doctors to provide care to patients suffering from illnesses more commonly associated with their birth gender. There have been reports that transgender males have been frustrated in obtaining treatment for breast cancer.

“Now, more children can go to school knowing that they will be treated with dignity and respect, and many more Americans will have access to the high-quality health care they deserve,” Bend the Arc said.

The Anti-Defamation League in the meantime praised US Attorney General Loretta Lynch for suing North Carolina, which last month passed a far-reaching law limiting LGBT rights, including restricting restroom use to birth-gender.

“The Justice Department’s civil rights complaint filed in federal court in North Carolina sends an important message that discrimination against transgender people is both unlawful and unacceptable,” the ADL said in a statement.

The North Carolina Jewish federations in Greensboro, Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh last month jointly resolved that the North Carolina law was “detrimental.”

“We stand with, support, and welcome all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community,” the joint resolution released April 26 said. “At our facilities, all individuals are and will continue to be able to use the restrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity and/or expression, regardless of their biological sex.”

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