Referring to gays as a "hated minority," Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg called Sunday for greater unity among those fighting all forms of discrimination.
Gays and lesbians must form stronger alliances with other minority groups, Goldberg said, speaking at a conference on legal and religious issues facing homosexuals.
"We are also a hated minority," Goldberg, a lesbian, said during a speech at Valley Beth Shalom synagogue in Encino. "It is imperative that we support those whose human rights are under attack. The rights of minorities are always connected. If it's not us now, it will be soon."
Discrimination, parenthood and religious conflict were among the topics discussed at the daylong "At the Crossroads to Equality" seminar organized by Response, a group formed at the synagogue in 1992 by the families of gays and lesbians.
Outside Valley Beth Shalom, half a dozen protesters heckled the 175 participants.
"We are here to condemn this outrage," said Earl Krugel, chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the Jewish Defense League. "It's a complete violation of the Torah," the Jewish scriptures.
The protesters quickly dispersed when police arrived.
Inside, Rabbi Jerry Danzig defended the acceptance of gays.
"A human being is a human being no matter what their sexual orientation is," Danzig said. "Homosexuality is not a choice, but inherited in birth. Therefore, the Bible cannot be against it."
Virginia Uribe, director of Project 10, a counseling service for homosexual teenagers, said gay youths are particularly sensitive to homophobia.
Started in 1984, the program is active at 30 high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its goals include reducing the number of dropouts, suicides and substance abusers among homosexual students.
"Project 10 is a lifesaver," said Louise Browning, a former assistant principal at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. "It gives them the validation that they really are OK as human beings."
Activist and author Torie Osborn, who said she was expelledfrom her liberal, middle-class home when she told her parents she was a lesbian, warned against "the reactionary forces in charge of the social agenda."
"Sixty percent of Americans still think gays and lesbians are immoral," said Osborn. "That is the statistic that has to change before there is a broader dialogue with the non-gay public."