Rebecca Stapel-Wax's Full Speech at the April 5 GA HB757 Victory Rally

As a professional Jewish lesbian, wife, mother, and friend, I am eternally grateful to Governor Deal for vetoing HB 757. I also feel indebted to the corporate community for speaking up loudly with their big names, their influence, and their capital. But my appreciation has not come without side effects.

For three very long months we worried. 

I had an epiphany one morning as I drove my 11 year old to school. We were listening to the news about the Religious Freedom exemption bills that were flooding the Georgia legislature. And all of a sudden I realized that these proposals, not just the ones in Georgia but the over 100 that have crept up in states across the country; they have a direct impact on my sons. And, then I was alarmed by the affect they have on children everywhere.

Our children have two options for internalizing what these discriminatory laws mean in the name of religious freedom. Neither option is good. 

They can feel betrayed by their friends, their neighbors, their community, and their government. The can be angry and frustrated. They can be confused about the immense hypocrisy of people citing that religion is to alienate others rather than unite them.

There are 21 world religions that practice The Golden Rule-treat others as you would like to be treated. Those same people decry that to fully practice their religion is to be able to deny basic needs to others. Let’s go back to kindergarten and ask those same people, “How would you feel if someone did that to you-and tried to take away your access to housing, your access to healthcare, your access to adoptions, or bathrooms, or marriage or a plethora of other basic needs? We all know that thankfully freedom to practice ones religion is already a fundamental right across the land. Who are these legislators fooling that these laws won’t sanction discrimination? 

The alternative impression that these bills leave on our kids panics me to the bone. Our kids might actually believe that these bills have credence. They may horrifyingly internalize that these anti-LGBT proposals have validity. There are hundreds of them and they keep coming back. We live in a hetero-normative society, where 99% of the messages kids get is that boys should only be attracted to girls and vice versa. Additionally, if a child, or an adult for that matter, strays from the gender norms of male or female from the sex they were assigned at birth they are labeled as subversive.

These messages aren’t random. We can’t even count from the time of conception, how often we hear these hetero-normative and gender role expectations. So, we don’t think that these overt threats against us, telling us that we aren’t worthy of basic rights, aren’t going to leave emotional and bitter scars?

In Jewish tradition we have a phrase, L’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. We expect that our people will endure eternally but that won’t happen in a vacuum or with only good thoughts. We are all responsible for teaching the stories of our peoples, initiating passion, treating each other with dignity and living out universal values with our future generations of children and grandchildren. 

We have been warned. This has been the third year in Georgia that countless hours, tax payer dollars, ignoring important legislative work has been spent on these punitive laws. It is certain that this fight will come again. Laws are used as precedent. We have fended them off. But we cannot rest. We may get weary, but we have each other. And we have our children to give us perspective, who give us motivation, persistence, and tenacity. 

Now is time for  comprehensive non-discrimination legislation. We need a third option for our children. We can’t allow these bills to go any further. They will be cited as fact and fuel the trauma that not only my children of two moms experience but all children-and their adults. We must continue to speak up to say that any discrimination is wrong, especially if that discrimination is hidden in the name of religion. 

In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of Our Ancestors, we are told, "You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it."

So, do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s work. 

Do Justly Now!

Love Mercy Now!

Walk Humbly Now!