Stuart Milk, Co-founder and Board President of the Harvey Milk Foundation, wrote an op-ed for The Huffington Post in which he reflected on the legacy of his uncle, Harvey Milk—the first openly gay elected official in the U.S—and the relationship between the Jewish community, the LGBT community, and the Democratic Party. Milk called President Barack Obama “a true advocate for our [LGBT] cause” and wrote:
[Harvey Milk] saw that our community, the Jewish community, took the ideal of b’tzelem elohim, that all are created in the image of the divine, to heart, through standing arm-in-arm with those fighting for the civil rights movement and helping lead the women’s right movement.
And my uncle knew that he could count on his Jewish brothers and sisters in the fight for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, a movement that was advanced with the tragedy of his assassination in 1978. Jewish support for the LGBT community was visible even in 1965, when the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (now Women of Reform Judaism) passed a resolution condemning the criminalization of homosexuality when no one else would.
My uncle was quite prophetic in his belief that fellow Jews would be among the first to fight for marriage equality in numerous states, and they have: Jewish organizations ranging from the Religious Action Center to the Anti-Defamation League and local communities around the country have championed LGBT equality efforts for decades. But the fight is not over, and this is why the LGBT community needs you to carefully weigh your vote in this year’s presidential election—an election that is likely to have an impact on LGBT individuals for years to come.
I ask you to look at our two options for our next president. We’ll start with President Barack Obama.
The president’s record advancing pro-LGBT legislation is too extensive to list, but highlights include repealing the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, signing into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and issuing a mandate that requires hospitals to provide LGBT families the same visitation policies given to everyone else. The president has issued unprecedented instruction to all foreign U.S. offices encouraging collaboration with at-risk minority communities, including LGBT people…
President Obama also became the first sitting U.S. president ever to declare support for same-sex marriage, joining 81 percent of American Jews who, according to recent polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, share his desire that same-sex couples be able to celebrate their love—under a chuppah, at a church, or in the town hall—the same as different-sex couples. This statement of support, as small as it may have seemed, sent waves of hope and acceptance through the LGBT community, making us believe that there might finally be a true advocate in office for our cause…
The Jewish community has been involved in every major civil rights fight in American history. We know, thanks to our all-too-painful memory of the ancestors we lost due to intolerance and hate mongering, that those who marginalize and diminish any minority group should put us all on alert.
The struggle for LGBT equality is no different. I am an American who is proudly Jewish and proudly gay. The LGBT community needs support, and the Jewish community needs to be at the forefront, not just because of b’tzelem elohim but because it is the right thing to do. There is only one choice for both the LGBT community and the Jewish community, and that choice is President Barack Obama.
Click here to read the entire op-ed.