Responding to Anti-Gay Rights Referenda (URJ)

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Adopted at the 62nd General Assembly
San Francisco, CA


In 1977, the UAHC Biennial Convention strongly affirmed the right of gay men and lesbians to equal protection of the law and to full protection of their civil rights. This resolution was reaffirmed in 1987 and 1989.

Currently, efforts are underway to enact national legislation protecting the civil rights of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. Until such legislation passes, it is at the state and local levels that the struggle for equal rights is being fought. Alarmingly, across the country, growing numbers of state and local referenda and statutes are being considered which could deny civil rights protections to gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

On November 3, 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment Two, one of several anti-gay ballot initiatives in the 1992 election. The Amendment to the state constitution strictly prohibits the State of Colorado and any component of state government from taking any action which would prevent or redress discrimination against gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals because of their sexual orientation.

The amendment is part of a burgeoning trend of discrimination and homophobia throughout the country as evidenced by similar 1992 ballot initiatives in Oregon, Portland, Maine and Tampa, Florida. Anti-gay statewide ballot measures are anticipated in six more states and 35 municipalities in the next election cycle. These ballot measures would enact discrimination in its most pernicious form as they seek to create (and in Tampa and Colorado have created) constitutionally “protected discriminatory rights,” without limitation, against gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals.

The goal of these initiatives — to deny fundamental human rights — is antithetical to our beliefs. Moreover, even if the initiatives are defeated, the very process of gathering petitions, funds, and momentum for these measures has created an atmosphere of hatred in which there has been an alarming increase in bias-related crime against gay men and lesbians. The spread of the anti-gay agenda has intensified as the Religious Right has found discrimination against homosexuals to be and effective rallying point for the broader agenda; homophobic organizing tools and rhetoric make their way into school board elections, censorship battles, and anti-choice demonstrations.

While civil rights activists continue to try to overturn the Amendment in Colorado and prevent adoption of similar measures in other states and localities, the proponents of these ballot initiatives have already coalesced around an ideology of hate that transcends state and local laws. It is a national movement and we must respond to it as such.

The reprehensible nature of the anti-gay initiatives and the fact that they are spreading throughout the body politic obligate us as a religious body to register a strong protest when such referenda or statutes pass. In certain instances, when the discrimination practiced by states or governments has been particularly blatant, the UAHC has registered its protest by the use of a boycott; the boycott against South Africa and against states which did not pass the ERA are precedents for such action. We call for such a boycott now.

A boycott is both a symbolic and a practical step. It is an emphatic moral statement, but it also serves, as was the case in Colorado, to move an otherwise neutral business community to a position of active opposition to the anti-gay measure.

We call for the boycott to take effect on January 1, 1995, in order to give those states and municipalities which currently have discriminatory legislation on the books an opportunity to reverse their actions, and in order to alert those who now contemplate supporting similar statutes that their action will have certain and serious consequences.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves:

1.To actively oppose state and local referenda and statutes restricting the civil rights of gays, lesbians, or bisexuals;
2.To work in coalition with other national and local organizations (including, but not limited to, religious organizations) to mount a national campaign to counter the anti-gay rhetoric of the Religious Right;
3.Not to hold regional or national meetings in any state or municipality which has a law in effect on or after January 1, 1995, denying legal protection to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, or bisexuals. If a regional body cannot comply with this resolution within its own boundaries, it will be exempted;
4.To call upon its affiliates and the Central Conference of American Rabbis to adopt a similar position;
5.To call upon the Commission on Social Action to join in amicus briefs to strike down judicially such referenda and statutes.

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