The week before our wedding (October 19), the Board of Directors of our synagogue, Congregation Beth Am, endorsed the following resolution:
“The California Constitution should guarantee that every Californian be treated fairly. Congregation Beth Am of Los Altos Hills opposes any initiative that would amend the state constitution in an attempt to ban marriage for gay and lesbian couples in California.
“This action is consistent with the core values of the Reform movement: affirming the dignity of all persons, and standing up for equality under the law and civil rights for gays and lesbians. It is also consistent with our long-standing practice at Beth Am to recognize and marry same- sex couples. Additionally, The Union for Reform Judaism’s Pacific Central West Council has urged their California congregations to get involved in the campaign to defeat Proposition 8.”
In a recent press release:
“The Union for Reform Judaism’s Pacific Central West Council (“PCW”) passed a resolution last week opposing Proposition 8…In so doing, the Northern California based Council joined the URJ Pacific Southwest Council (“PSW”), headquartered in Los Angeles, which had passed a similar resolution in June.
“The PCW’s “Protection of the Freedom to Marry” resolution, mirroring the language of a 2004 PSW resolution supporting the freedom of gays and lesbians to marry, calls marriage “a basic human right and an individual personal choice” and declares that “the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitment of civil marriage.”
“Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, Co-Acting Regional Director of the PCW and Senior Associate Director of the PSW, explained the importance of this issue to the Reform Movement as follows:
“The Reform Movement holds that we are all created equally in God’s image – male and female, straight and gay – and that all are therefore entitled to equality and fairness. And we know that God created human beings to be in relationship, which makes marriage truly a fundamental freedom. We cannot and will not stand idly by when Proposition 8 threatens to take away such a fundamental freedom and to hurt the gay and lesbian members of our community; we are called to protect the freedom to marry and the equality of all.”
Conservative Rabbi Sheldon Lewis was one of the speakers before our wedding. In his remarks, he said the following:
“Now we have much less patience with racial injustice, with inequality for women, and with keeping the handicapped trapped within severe boundaries. Torah and Halacha (Jewish law) have learned deeply from our age, and they are evolving. No religious stream within Judaism has been impervious to these changes. A key sign of vitality for every religious tradition is its capacity to stretch itself in every new age. We simply have to acknowledge, I believe, that our need to grow our tradition in light of new insights will never cease.
“Surely marriage equality for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters marks an urgent new frontier for Torah and Halacha. Verses in the book of Leviticus have brought untold suffering. I am so very sorry that these ancient strictures and the prejudice they represent have caused and continue to cause such pain for so many in eras past until this day. I am so sorry that it often takes so very long for us collectively to take a new look and commit to higher and more just values. I am so sorry that I personally took so long to realize my error and to continue to assume that our tradition was wise in this area. Now it seems so clear. God’s creation is so wondrously diverse. The Divine Image in every person is expressed in uncounted ways. Homosexuality is part and parcel of God’s creation. To deny any person the right to live fully and joyfully, to discourage or to prevent any person from finding a lifetime partner with whom to fashion a home in love, to hinder that couple from receiving the full benefits of the law in our society, and to place obstacles before two people to celebrate their commitment legally and publicly simply fly in the face of God’s justice and compassion. We need to recalibrate our tradition in light of our new learning. We are blessed that today in this sanctuary and in this age, we are taking steps to do just that.”
UPDATE: Along with the Reform and Conservative movements, ADL, Hadassah, and the American Jewish Committee, the board of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley voted on October 2 to add its name to the website http://www.jewsformarriageequality.org/.