Last night, Boise's mayor and city counsel held a hearing on a new law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Since it has been impossible to even get a reading for such an ordinance in the state legislature, the city of Boise is now leading the way.
Over 60 people testified--probably 50 of whom were in support of the law. I heard extraordinarily moving stories from LGBT people, their parents and children and friends. All together, it was a lesson in what it is like to live in fear of losing one's job, benefits, housing--simply on account of who one loves.
And make no mistake, the people in power got this lesson. They voted unanimously to pass this ordinance. After five hours, there was applause--and tears. A community that has suffered terrible bigotry and callousness in this state felt heard by their elected officials, for the first time.
I'm posting my own testimony below. It was a proud day for this city.
City Council Testimony Nov 13, 2012
Mr. Mayor and Members of the Council, Members of the LGBT community, and family and friends:
I am Rabbi Dan Fink, representing Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, established in 1895, its board of directors and its member families, gay and straight.
I come before you as a representative of a faith community, in deep humility. For centuries, we religious people have wielded faith as a club against gay and lesbian people. We have used God and Scripture, which should be all about love and liberty, to promote bigotry and hatred. We have acted just like those religious people who used their sacred texts to justify slavery one hundred and fifty years ago. These attitudes are not gone; you have heard such hurtful words, veiled in the language of faith, spoken here tonight. But I believe that in light of this sad past, those of us who speak for churches and mosques and synagogues owe the LGBT community a deep apology and, more importantly, a concerted effort to repent and make amends.
We can change the way understand our sacred texts, whether they be the Bible or the US constitution. In fact, I believe that the greatness of this nation lies in its evolving history of interpreting ever more generously and inclusively, of expanding rather than curtailing basic liberties. In the beginning, we granted human rights only to property-owning white men. Over the last two centuries, we have thankfully extended those rights to African-Americans, immigrants, women, and now the LGBT community.
I pray that the City of Boise will, in that grand tradition, lead the way. There can be no doubt in which direction the future lies. Just walk into, say, Boise High School, and look at attitudes on sexual orientation among our young people. Look at the results of last Tuesday night. Those opposing full protection and equal rights for the LGBT community, on the basis of either the Bible or the Constitution are doomed to be dinosaurs, like those defending slavery back in 1860. Tonight, we face a choice. We can resist progress and become a reactionary backwater. Or we can shine forth as a beacon of progress, a city that lives up to the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.”