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Jews responding to the Christian right -
because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Commentary and Talking Points for Shavuot Weekend

Countering the Family Values Monopoly

By Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, February 6, 2004

In his State of the Union address, President Bush signaled his intent to make “family values” a centerpiece of the 2004 presidential campaign.

His belief that “the sanctity of the family” needs to be defended from the “threat” that gay and lesbian couples ostensibly pose to heterosexual family units is hardly surprising. After all, when asked about same-sex unions after a court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, the president commented, “We are all sinners.”

The very language the president employed then indicates that his religious views play a significant role in the public-policy position he has adopted on this matter, and the role that religious fundamentalism has played in setting the terms for this debate in the public square is unquestionably considerable. In taking the stance he did, President Bush displayed the impact that the Traditional Values Coalition and allied conservative religious groups — including Jewish ones — that have long been at the forefront of the fight against the advancement of rights and options for gays and lesbians in our society has had upon him. Continued at the website of Clergy for Fairness, www.clergyforfairness.org, which is campaigning against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Union for Reform Judaism Advocacy Week Talking Points

The Union for Reform Judaism, which opposes the marriage amendment, encouages using "I" language, like that below, when advocating for its defeat.

As a Reform Jew, I take to heart the Jewish teaching that we are created, b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God. We must value tolerance and the acceptance of others.

There's an important difference between religious marriage and civil marriage and this amendment threatens BOTH.

This is an issue of RELIGIOUS LIBERTY:

  • Religious institutions should have the religious freedom to decide which partnerships to sanctify.
  • Even if same-sex civil marriage is legal, no clergy member will EVER be forced to recognize or sanctify any union or marriage they don’t want to.
  • The real danger in this amendment is that religions that do sanctify same-sex relationships could be challenged by law. Even though the 1st amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, because this amendment is later – S.J. Res. 1 could trump it.
  • This would be an implied endorsement of one religion’s views over another concerning what constitutes marriage

This amendment would harm children:

  • Children thrive in loving households, no matter the gender of their parents.
  • This amendment would make it more difficult to address issues such as who can visit a sick child, who can take time off work to care for a sick child without getting fired, and whose health insurance can cover a sick child.
The Marriage Metaphor of Shavuot

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, JewsOnFirst.org, May 31, 2006

The festival of Shavuot (June 1-3, 2006) employs a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Jewish People called "marriage," symbolized by referring to the Torah as the Ketubah - a written marriage covenant. God and the Jews are symbolically married! Our definition of marriage is not covered by Congress's badly named Marriage Protection Amendment, nor are the symbolic marriages of Catholic religious orders.

Historically, religious marriages of all kinds exist with no reference to what civil authorities ordain.

In the traditional Ketubah, the families of the bride and groom would negotiate what practical arrangements were supplied to the marriage - pots, linens, trust funds, apprenticeship, etc. The religious significance was framed by the actual ceremony under the Huppah and the lived-out relationship of the marriage partners. Over time, Judaism has sought to emphasize equality and love as the religious significance of marriage.

When Jews agreed to register marriages with civil authorities in the modern world, the authority of religion and the authority of the state were separated. In the event of a divorce the financial details of divorces required the state's authorities and then religious expression. The religious meaning of marriage was the purview of Judaism but the material issues were adjudicated by the state. That is what we call the Enlightenment "deal."

At this time, the Senate's attempt to legislate "marriage" by a constitutional amendment is an imposition of a narrow and sectarian definition by right-wing Christian activists . The amendment is also an expression of power by the majority that does not respect minority views.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

The institutions of government and religion must be kept separate for the benefit of both. While there has traditionally been some interaction between the two in regard to marriage law, Americans United believes it is serious mistake to compound that entanglement by writing the marriage practices of one segment of the religious community into the Constitution. Click here for more

Thoughts from Leaders of the Reform Movement

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
“Gay and lesbian children are the children of God just as heterosexual children are …We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way. But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
"Regardless of context, discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental belief. We oppose discrimination against all individuals, including gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, for the stamp of the divine is present in each and every one of us."

Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism
When it comes to civil marriage, our laws must equally protect all Americans, no matter their sexual orientation, and all couples should receive the same legal benefits of marriage.

Mark Pelavin, Associate Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
The Reform Jewish Movement, inspired by Genesis’s teaching that all human beings are created b'tselem Elohim (in the Divine image), has a long history of welcoming gay and lesbian Jews into our congregations and communal life. Our advocacy on behalf of the GLBT community includes legislative and judicial efforts to secure equal opportunity through same sex marriage.

Rabbi Harry Danziger, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
The so-called Marriage Protection Amendment does nothing to enhance or improve the state of heterosexual marriages. Worse than that, at a time when increasing numbers of same sex households exist, it deprives them not of only the legal benefits of marriage but also the legal responsibilities of family life. Both morally and pragmatically, every couple who calls themselves a family, who may have children, and who share property ought to have the rights and responsibilities of marriage or civil union.

Click here for the website of the Relgious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

Many Jewish and Christian organizations oppose the federal marriage amendment. You can see a list at www.clergyforfairness.org.