Jews and Muslims defend trans rights

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A number of US Jewish and Muslim faith leaders have joined a legal brief defending anti-discrimination protections for transgender kids.

The Supreme Court is set to hear the case of Virginian trans teen Gavin Grimm, whose school ordered him to use a toilet that correspond with his “biological gender”.

Grimm is suing the Gloucester County School Board with help from the American Civil Liberties Union, arguing that the policy violated his right to freedom from discrimination.

The Supreme Court case is expected to set precedent on legal protections for trans people, and is considered ‘must-win’ after the Trump administration acted to withdraw trans protections.

Ahead of the case, a legal brief has been filed on behalf of a number of faith groups defending LGBT rights.

A total of 1800 faith leaders and a string of religious groups joined the brief, including from both Muslim and conservative Jewish groups. Their brief attacks any ‘religious freedom’ justification for allowing discrimination,

In their statement, Muslims for Progressive Values profess a “belief in transgender equality as rooted in our understanding of our faith and the values at the heart of Islam, embodied in the commandment in the Holy Qur’an 5:8 to pursue justice”, interpreting the Qur’an as “having no concept of assigned gender roles, gender-based behavior, or separation of the sexes, deeming any discrimination on such bases as cultural and not to be given any divine mandate”.

The Jewish Theological Seminary, also a signatory, added: “JTS is compelled to act in the face of state and federal actions which undermine the Jewish principle of human dignity (kevod haberiyot) as it relates to our LGBTQ students, teachers, family members, neighbors, and all those targeted in the larger community.

“We are chagrined to find that the rights and security of [trans people] are newly under attack from the very government entities and institutions to which we are all entitled to look for protection.

“We are particularly distressed that the White House and Department of Justice have reversed existing government positions that provided protections to members of the LGBTQ community, in spite of President Trump’s earlier statements supporting LGBTQ rights.

“A Justice Department that fails to advocate on behalf of vulnerable minorities subject to discrimination and even violence forfeits the right to be known by that name.”

They added: “Laws such as the one at issue in the Supreme Court case have the effect, if not the purpose, of publicly humiliating transgender students by refusing them access to facilities consistent with their gender identities, and singling them out for discriminatory treatment in full view of their fellow students. As members of the Jewish community, our hearts bleed with theirs from such humiliation.”

The signatories include the Rabbinical Assembly; the Episcopal Church the United Church of Christ; the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Methodist Federation for Social Action.