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Why Jewish Organization ADL Is Making LGBT Equality a Priority

Why Jewish Organization ADL Is Making LGBT Equality a Priority

Why Jewish Organization ADL Is Making LGBT Equality a Priority

The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League and an attorney who led the organization's marriage equality push tell us why the storied group is ready to devote even more resources to expanding LGBT rights.

It has been a Pride Month full of forward momentum.

At its start, we at the Anti-Defamation League joined millions of Americans in expressing horror and outrage at the killings in Orlando. We continue to mourn the loss of 49 innocent lives and are repulsed by the fact that the victims were targeted as members and allies of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities.

On Sunday, we fielded our first official delegation at the New York City Pride March and celebrated with tens of thousands of other New Yorkers. In this month that has vacillated from moments of sadness and triumph, we expressed our full solidarity with members of LGBTQ communities. We are redoubling our resolve to fight against the forces of hatred and extremism that murdered innocents in Orlando. And we again are committing ourselves to the cause of full equality for LGBTQ Americans.

This fight is not something new for ADL. Protecting the civil rights of all Americans, including members of the LGBTQ community, is core to our mission. For decades, ADL has been at the forefront of the fight for comprehensive federal and state hate-crime laws. We long advocated for marriage equality and rejoiced when it became law of the land.

And we will continue the push for laws protecting LGBTQ communities from discrimination in public accommodations, housing, public education, federal funding, credit, jury service, and employment.

We find it unacceptable for someone to be denied a job, a place to live, or access to something as fundamental as a bathroom or accurate identification simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Our commitment to nondiscrimination includes fighting against religious pretexts for discrimination.

While legal protection against discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, and religion has existed for decades, legal equality for LGBTQ people still lags. The gaps in the law are astonishing. The time for legal equality is long overdue.

And with statistics showing that LGBTQ people are, relative to community size, the number one group targeted for hate crimes, the need is more urgent than ever for ADL's work in promoting acceptance and diversity, and fighting hate. There is a critical need for the voices of allies advocating for LGBTQ civil rights, our highly acclaimed educational programs for kids from pre-K through young adulthood, and we resolve to continue and expand our work combating hate directed at LGBTQ people.

To some, this commitment by ADL to LGBTQ rights may come as a surprise. Many regard ADL as an organization solely focused on fighting anti-Semitism. While this is true, our mission since the founding of ADL in 1913 has been dual in nature. As written in our founding charter, ADL exists to combat anti-Semitism and "to secure justice and fair treatment to all."

Thus since our earliest days, ADL did not believe that defending the Jewish people and securing civil rights were in competition. It is not an "either/or" question. Rather it always has been a matter of "both/and." We strengthen our cause when we fight for others, and fighting for others strengthens our cause. So we further our founding mission as we continue to fight for LGBTQ rights.

And yet it's worth noting that this struggle is not simply a matter of advocating for "others." The LGBTQ community is a vital part of our Jewish communities and organizations that serve them. Our vigorous advocacy for equality in the law should be matched as well by equality and inclusion within these organizations. It is absolutely clear that for Jewish organizations to grow and be competitive, we can do better in our own hiring practices and seek to model the efforts of many leading corporations that have made LGBTQ inclusion a top priority.

As the sage Hillel, the Elder, famously said, "If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"

As we close out Pride Month 2016, ADL is recommitting itself to the cause of LGBTQ equality and to strive for freedom from hate. These are among the civil rights causes of the 21st century. To paraphrase Hillel, the time for equality is now.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT is CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. CHRIS WOLF, an attorney from Washington, D.C., is a longtime ADL volunteer leader who led the league's push for marriage equality.

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Jonathan Greenblatt and Christopher Wolf