Making a (Religious) Case for Same-Sex Marriage: An Invitation

For a description of our upcoming (Feb 4) program entitled “The Religious Case for Same-Sex Marriage,” click here for Beth Am’s website or here for a recent Baltimore Magazine plug.

I have always enjoyed the quote (attributed in various forms to Blaise Pascal, Woodrow Wilson, Thoreau and others) “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”  It’s often hard to limit the scope or length of one’s writing (particularly for rabbis who are almost definitionally verbose). In writing this blog, however, I have attempted to keep myself within the dalet amot (parameters) of two essential questions:

1. How do Jewish values inform city-living?
2. How does living in the city affect an ancient tradition as it renews itself for the 21st Century?

Often, these entries have been more experientially “exegetical”: descriptions of living/working in Baltimore and Reservoir Hill and my attempt to frame these experiences in textual and/or Jewish values language.  Occasionally, I’ve also felt compelled to tackle issues that might not be obviously related to being an “urban rabbi” or living and working in what I call “The New Jewish Neighborhood.”  The question of marriage equality is one of these issues.  I have not polled my neighbors to get their position on the current Maryland legislation nor do I think that for most of them this is their most pressing concern.  Most people nowadays (particularly in the African-American community where unemployment is nearly twice as high as the general population) are concerned about jobs and the economy.

So, why blog about marriage equality?  Quite simply because I believe that it is the right thing to do.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrated this week, once said: “Never, never be afraid to do what’s right…. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” Supporting Marriage Equality is the right thing for my lesbian and gay congregants and for our shul’s mission of inclusion.  It’s the right thing from the perspective of Jewish values and therefore, I believe, the right thing in the eyes of God.  And it’s the right thing for our “ancient tradition as it renews itself for the 21st Century.”  If you’re interested in learning more about my perspective, I spoke on this issue in a recent sermon which you can read by clicking here.

There is, finally, one additional reason why I think we Jews in particular ought to be concerned about the LGBT community.  If there is any minority, any group of people who truly understands the experience of the “insider-outsider,” it is the Jewish people.  American Jews have always had to make difficult decisions about our own visibility: how “Jewish” to keep our surnames, whether to wear kippot in public, whether to challenge the name of the company “Christmas” party.  In other words, even though we Jews, more often that not, can “pass,” more and more of us have chosen to wear our Judaism with pride, a phenomenon I referred to in an earlier post.  If we are motivated by what Rabbi Sharon Brous has called “Radical Empathy,” if we value the right of all peoples to have equal protection under the law, then we must advocate not only for the private right of individuals in their own bedrooms but also the public right of gay/lesbian couples to stand before God and their communities and celebrate their love.