Editor: I’ve been a rabbi for 25 years and at Congregation Etz Hayim in Arlington for 18. Our congregation belongs to the Conservative movement in Judaism. We believe in conserving Jewish law and tradition, while keeping it in touch with the times in which we are living.

Part of our belief is that we are all created by God, in the all encompassing image of God. Therefore all human beings deserve to respected as created by God, including members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Everyone is created by God and everyone is different. Those differences are the genius of God’s creation, and therefore we all have to respect each person as a unique part of His design.

These beliefs have led me to stand with the Virginia Values Coalition alongside more than 140 of my fellow faith leaders to call for comprehensive protections for LGBT Virginians in employment, housing and public spaces.

We’ve always valued fairness and opportunity here in Virginia. Our coalition represents faith leaders from more than a dozen religious denominations and members from every corner of Virginia. A common value shared by our diverse faith coalition is treating others the way we want to be treated.

Currently, the LGBT community in Virginia lacks protections at both the state and federal level. This means someone in Virginia can be denied a job, excluded from a place to live, or even refused service just because of who they are or who they love.

Discrimination is a real and urgent problem that disproportionally impacts the most vulnerable members of our community, particularly LGBT people of color. We must do everything we can to make sure that Virginia is a safe and welcoming place for all people, especially something as reasonable as updating our state’s laws to protect LGBT people.

Some people may say that these protections could undermine religious freedom in Virginia. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As a member of a minority faith that has been the target of religiously-motivated persecution, I would never support legislation that would undermine religious freedom for Jews, Christians, Muslims or any faith tradition. Freedom of religion is important to all of us, including LGBT people. It is fundamental to our nation’s promise of freedom and fairness for all. That’s why it’s already protected by the First Amendment to the constitution. And the good news is, that will never change.

At its core, discrimination is a failure to recognize the individual dignity of another human being. This is true when generalizations about the Jewish community have been used to fuel discrimination, misunderstanding or hate. Likewise, it is against God’s plan when members of the LGBT community are judged and categorized by others.

Rabbi Lia Bass, Arlington

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