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Lesbian rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum appointed to religious freedom commission

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Sharon Kleinbaum

Lesbian rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum appointed to religious freedom commission

President Joe Biden has appointed Sharon Kleinbaum, an out lesbian rabbi, to serve as commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Kleinbaum was appointed together with Khizr Khan to the commission, which is an independent body that evaluates the state of religious freedom around the world and reports this to the President and Congress.

Sharon Kleinbaum and religious freedom

Kleinbaum is currently the Senior Rabbi at the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) synagogue in New York City, one of the few LGBTQ-centering religious centers in the world.

Married to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Kleinbaum had served on the Commission in 2019 and 2020 after being recommended of then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny).

The White House cited Kleinbaum’s leadership at the CBST, “arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership.”

“She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community,” they said.

They also recognized Kleinbaum’s outspoken activism, which “made her a powerful voice for religious freedom, LGBTQ rights and other human rights in America and around the world.”

Nine commissioners on the commission

Created by law in 1998, the USCIRF has its nine commissioners appointed to serve as two years.

They are appointed by the President, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Each are able to name three appointees to the commission. However, the nominees of the Senate and the House have to receive recommendations from the leaders of the party opposite of the President.

The President will also appoint an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, who will serve as the group’s tenth, non-voting member.

Currently, there are three conservative appointees and three liberal appointees on the commission.

One conservative appointee is Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, who has advocated against LGBTQ rights.

Sharon Kleinbaum on the commission

With Kleinbaum’s appointment, this will bring the number of liberal appointees to five, with one Senate appointment coming from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

The other commissioner appointed by Biden, Khan, is a lawyer. The appointments of Kleinbaum and Khan don’t require confirmation from the Senate.

Khan’s son, Capt. Humayun Khan, had died in action in Iraq in 2004. In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump had insulted Capt. Khan and his parents, as well as other Muslim people.

Biden also nominated Rashad Hussain as the Ambassador-at-Large, whose position needs the confirmation of Senate.

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