President Joe Biden has nominated the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
On Friday, Biden announced plans to nominate Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the head of the New York City-based Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, to the commission.
Kleinbaum was installed as the LGBTQ-welcoming and progressive synagogue’s first rabbi in 1992, leading it through the turbulent period during the early decades of the AIDS crisis, working on social justice issues, and advocating for then human rights of all people.
According to a biography provided by the White House, under Kleinbaum’s leadership, “CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions.”
A previous member of the commission in 2020, Kleinbaum also serves as a commissioner on New York City’ Commission on Human Rights, a member of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Faith Based Advisory Council, and a board member of the New York Jewish Agenda and the New Israel Fund.
Kleinbaum is married to Randi Weingarten, an education advocate who serves as the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a powerful labor union.
‘I am deeply honored to be appointed by President Biden to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” Kleinbaum said in a statement. “The issues facing our world around the role that religion plays in both liberating people and oppressing people is at the center of so many struggles for human rights.
“I am so moved to work alongside the other Commissioners, both Democrats and Republicans, and with the fabulous staff of USCIRF, to make this world a better place. I am grateful to President Joe Biden for his trust in me and I pray for the success of the Biden-Harris Administration.”
Created by an act of Congress in 1998, the commission is an independent, bipartisan commission that is tasked with monitoring alleged violations of religious freedom around the world, and makes policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State, and Congress.
The commission is comprised of 10 members, each serving two-year terms, appointed by the president and congressional leaders, with the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom serving as a non-voting ex officio member.
Among the commission’s duties are issuing an annual report assessing the U.S. government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act; meeting with senior government officials, leaders of NGOs, and victims of religious persecution from around the globe; testifying at hearings and holding briefings on issues related to religious freedom; and issues reports with policy prescriptions for how best to to ensure people are allowed to practice their religious beliefs without experiencing persecution.
President Biden condemned Florida lawmakers' push to restrict access to gender-affirming care and laws targeting transgender youth in an interview for Comedy Central's The Daily Show.
"It's just terrible what they're doing" in Florida, Biden told actor and guest host Kal Penn, who previously worked in the Obama administration as the White House's associate director of public engagement. The segment was part of an "in-depth" interview at the White House.
In the interview, for which preview clips have already been released, Penn asked Biden about his "evolution" on marriage equality and what the federal government can do "to protect LGBTQ Americans, especially trans kids who are dealing with all these regressive state laws right now."
LGBTQ advocates have hailed President Biden for committing to advancing equality in his recent State of the Union address -- a welcome gesture at a time when LGBTQ rights have come under attack from social conservatives.
Speaking to the nation on Tuesday evening, Biden said, "Here in the people’s House, it's our duty to protect all the people's rights and freedoms...Make no mistake: if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it. Let's also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity."
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