An NCJW Leader Talks LGBTQ Equality and Jeff Sessions

On January 18, 2017, NCJW leader Charlene Kurland spoke at a press conference in Philadelphia calling on US Senators to reject the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the next Attorney General. The press conference was a part of the National LGBTQ Taskforce’s annual Creating Change Conference. Below are her prepared, written remarks, which may differ slightly from those delivered:

My name is Charlene Kurland. I am here today representing the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). I am one of the vice presidents of the Greater Philadelphia Section of that group. The National Council of Jewish Women is the oldest grassroots Jewish women’s organization in the country. Since 1893 NCJW has advocated for women, children, and families, including immigrants.

I am a 73 year old woman, (and I’m hoping everyone will say, “You don’t look it.”). I was born and raised here in Philadelphia. And I happen to be a member of the LGBTQ community as well. During my first life, I was married to a man. And I have two grown children (a son who is now 49 and a daughter who is 47). 25 years ago, I met the love of my life and in 2013, we were issued a Marriage license and married in Montgomery County and, thanks to both the advancements in Pennsylvania and the subsequent United States Supreme Court Decision, we were claimed legal in 2014. My wife and I share 3 grandchildren (a granddaughter age 9 ½, a grandson 2 ½ and a granddaughter who is 6 months old).

I am honored to be here as a member of the LGBTQ community representing NCJW whose mission has been so important to advancing the rights of so many in our country. NCJW is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.

And most importantly, I am here today to present NCJW’s opposition to the approval of the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of our country.

NCJW’S CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said it so well when she stated:

“Senator Jeff Sessions has a record on civil rights and immigration law that is in opposition to everything that NCJW stands for. We do not believe he is an appropriate appointment as US Attorney General because we question his ability to fairly enforce the laws of the United States.

“In 1986, NCJW opposed President Reagan’s nomination of Senator Sessions becoming a US District Court judge for the same reasons we oppose him now — he demonstrated hostility to the civil rights of African Americans and other groups protected by existing civil rights laws. His record of racist comments and beliefs was thoroughly exposed in his confirmation hearings, after which his nomination was rejected by the then-Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions was one of only two nominees rejected by the Judiciary Committee in nearly 50 years.”

The history is clear: Jeff Sessions has been hostile to LGBTQ equality throughout his career, and his record on LGBTQ equality is in opposition to NCJW’s Jewish values. Sessions used his position of authority to publicly characterize LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage and relationships as “explicit” and “dangerous” to “traditional American moral principles.” Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice has worked for LGBTQ equality, including protecting transgender students. One of the most dangerous things Sessions could do as Attorney General is choose not to defend the basic civil rights of LGBTQ individuals.

Faith-based communities like NCJW need to join together and make our voices heard – Senator Sessions is unfit to be the next Attorney General! We need to tell our Senators to vote NO on Sessions.

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