Late last Friday night, when the New York State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage, it was an historic milestone for many reasons. New York now joins Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa and Washington, D.C., in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
And because it is by far the most populous of those states, because this was a legislative vote and not a court ruling, and simply because it’s New York, the victory gives a substantial boost to the nationwide movement toward marriage equality.
I do not make a practice of using my Faith Matters column for partisan political purposes. Suffice it to say that I do not regard marriage equality in the United States as a political matter; rather I view it as an urgent human rights issue.
There is no doubt that this issue will be the subject of significant discussion and debate. I have been asked: “Rabbi, where does Reform Judaism stand?”
The Reform movement has been a staunch advocate for gay and lesbian rights since 1965. Since then, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) have passed resolutions dealing with such issues as the elimination of discrimination in the Armed Forces and the Boy Scouts, as well as explicit workplace non-discrimination and civil rights legislation.
Most dramatically, the Reform movement has made clear its commitment to obtaining full civil rights for gay men and lesbians, including the right to civil marriage. I was present at the March 2000 CCAR convention when we adopted a resolution by an overwhelming vote stating, in part, “the relationship of a Jewish same-gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual.” This resolution was historic, since it marked the first time that a major rabbinical body had affirmed the holiness of loving, same-gender relationships.
I am proud and honored to be part of a religious movement that espouses such a strong commitment to the civil rights of all individuals. In a press release issued by URJ President Eric Yoffie regarding same-gender relationships, he stated:
“Because this I know: If there is anything at all that Reform Jews do, it is to create an inclusive spiritual home for those who seek the solace of our sanctuaries. And if this movement does not extend support to all who have been victims of discrimination, including gays and lesbians, then we have no right to call ourselves Reform Jews.”
Reform Judaism has long sought to ensure equality for all of God’s children, regardless of sexual orientation. As Jews, we are taught in the very beginning of the Torah that God created human beings B’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine Image, and therefore the diversity of creation represents the vastness of the Eternal (Genesis 1:27).
We oppose discrimination against any person, including gays and lesbians, for the stamp of the Divine is present in each and every human being.
“OMG, I LOVE NEW YORK!”
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900 or visit www.templebethelbradenton.com.