Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result…; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.
Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8.
the kedusha of gay & lesbian relationships
by Jane Fantel
In 1997 Debbie asked me to be on a panel at her synagogue (Temple Adat Shalom, Poway, CA). The discussion occurred on Friday evening after services May 24, 1997. We had presumed, given my past involvement with the Gay and Lesbian Community (I was the first official student rabbi at congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles and had prepared an issue of Davka [never published] that would deal with the general issue of Jews and Gays]), that I would have to convince myself of the opposing position in order to present it in a competent manner. A variation of a talk she asked me to prepare has been available here since then. I presented my thoughts here publicly as an attempt to further the discussion. Please share with me your responses.
I researched the hucalum archives for the previous year’s discussion of the subject and found little of a convincing nature. [I would love to post that material to have it available from here, but request the permission of those who shared there before I do so.] I asked for materials from those I knew of who had taken the opposing point of view and received some papers, most of which dealt with the subject only from the most general of perspectives, never taking the subject by the horns (to use a discreet metaphor). The most straightforward presentation I found was that by R. Brad Artson in his article in S’vara which all but comes out for Kiddushin for gay and lesbian couples but which I found seriously flawed (see within). The Pacific Southwest Council of the UAHC held a session on the subject at its 1997 biennial at which (so I am told) the organizers had difficulty finding someone to present the position in opposition to rabbinic officiation at same-sex commitment ceremonies. It is almost as though there is a fear, on the part of those opposed, to state their opposition and explain themselves. This has (as those who know me well) rarely been my problem.
There are some broader cultural issues that this exploration has encouraged me to consider; I have yet to gather them into words.
Representing “the other side” that evening was fellow HUC-JIR alumna Jane Fantel. I have had her text for years, but never posted it here… until now.
Thank you Rabbi. I am honored to be here tonight to participate in this most important dialogue on same gender marriages within the Reform movement.
I’d like to begin my remarks with more of a political overview of the same gender marriage situation. Like many people, I had assumed at some point in my life that I would eventually marry. When I realized that I was a lesbian, I abandoned that notion and came to believe that a legally sanctioned marriage to a same gender partner just wasn’t possible. As many of you know, the current interest in same gender marriage in the United States stems from a case that has been working its way through the Hawaii state courts. The Hawaiian Supreme Court had ruled that denying marriage licenses to same gender couples appeared to violate the state constitution that prohibits discrimination based on gender. Unless the state can show compelling reasons why only different gender couples should be allowed to marry, the state would lose its case. Having children is not a legal requirement of marriage for different gender couples, so the decision whether or not to have children would be irrelevant. And in any event, many unmarried same gender couples, including myself are to adopting or having their own biological children.
In the event that same gender marriages are sanctioned in Hawaii, other states will be faced with the question of how to deal with these Hawaiian marriages. Because of national constitutional provisions, marriages legally contracted in one state are considered legal in all states. This is true even if one state has requirements that were not met by the couple married in a ceremony conducted in another state.
Intense efforts have already been aimed at preventing the recognition of same gender marriages in several states, including I’m ashamed to say, California. At the present time, the House of Representatives has held hearings on the “Defense of Marriage Act” that would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Many same gender couples question the need for marriage. However, a number of legal rights and protections are automatically given to married persons that have not been available to lesbian and gay couples. For example, married people have the opportunity to be joint parents. Many states forbid lesbian or gay couples from adoptions…thankfully this is not yet the case in California, although our Governor is trying to put an end to second parent adoptions which allows a same gender couple to legally be the parents of their children. Further, married couples have the legal right to make medical decisions for a spouse too ill to make such decisions, and can obtain joint insurance policies for health, home and auto. They are also entitled to automatic inheritance and other death benefits such as social security and pension plans. In a marriage, many financial obligations are shifted from the individuals to the married couple.
While unmarried partners can obtain some of these benefits through legal documentation, many of these legal benefits or entitlements conferred by marriage are not available or are unnecessarily complicated for unmarried persons.
Given the legal benefits of marriage, I want to now focus on marriage in the Jewish context. As we all know, marriage is an integral part of our Jewish culture and a valued social tradition. The concept of marriage served many purposes throughout our history. For one thing, the need to “multiply” was important to assure the preservation of the Jewish people. Marriage also was seen as an economic union that brought support to the family unit. And, marriage assisted in helping us deal with loneliness by developing a sense of closeness with another person.
As Jews we seek to have our relationships blessed by God and our religious community to provide support, validation, structure and spiritual nourishment in our lives. Life rituals help nurture the spirit as well as relationships. Commitment ceremonies in the gay and lesbian community, provide a means for couples to celebrate their love. In sanctifying our relationships, we make a pledge not only to each other, but to God, just as you do.
Allowing us to marry in a civil ceremony permits freedom of choice and access to the rights and responsibilities that our political system allows for different gender couples. Marriage is one means of legitimizing these unions, and of providing us with the respect that is accorded other partnered individuals in our society. You may know that the Commission on Social Action of the UAHC, the Women’s Rabbinic Network and the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) each have endorsed resolutions calling for the legalization of civil marriages for same gender couples. However, what is before the CCAR this summer, is the resolution to allow and support religious marriages performed by rabbis for same gender couples.
The rite of marriage (kiddushin) in Jewish tradition is the life cycle ritual where the couple separate itself from all others to become a distinct family unit in the eyes of the community and God. The Jewish wedding ceremony allows for the Divine Presence to knit together a couple’s hearts and souls. Witnessed by the community of family and friends, a couple binds their lives together with various rituals.
Kiddushin, although traditionally for a man and a woman, is also a ceremony we use in the gay and lesbian community to sanctify the relationship between same gender couples. The holiness of a loving relationship, the celebration of commitment, and the affirmation of family, are the basic elements of this ritual. These values are important to all Jewish couples — lesbian and gay, as well as heterosexual. If we can agree that gay and lesbian acts are not inherently sinful, then can a gay and lesbian relationship be sanctified? When two Jews promise to establish a Jewish home, pledge to live together in faithfulness and integrity, and ask for God’s blessing, is this not kedusha?
Many people are prepared to affirm that for some Jews, a gay or lesbian relationship is the proper expression of the human need for intimacy and fulfillment. Still, I know that many rabbis are reluctant to endorse kiddushin for same gender couples because our relationships apparently disregard the historical and continuing Jewish preference of “the procreative family.” They ask, “How can we grant Jewish sanctity to a form of family which by its essence precludes procreation, a primary purpose of kiddushin?”
Rabbi Yoel Kahn, former spiritual leader at Congregation Shaar Zahav responds in three parts. First, he says “we cannot hold gay and lesbian families to a higher standard than we do different gender families. We do not require proof of fertility or even an intention to become parents before we are willing to marry a different gender couple. Is the same gender couple who uses adoption, alternative insemination, or other means to fulfill the Jewish responsibility to parent so different from the different gender family who does the same?”
Second, he asks, “does kiddushin require procreation? While Judaism has always had a preference for procreative marriage, our tradition has also validated the possibility that some unions will not produce children. Halacha states that a woman who does not bear children after ten years can be divorced by her husband. But we all know that this law is not enforced today in our movement.” The Jewish tradition has never insisted that the sole purpose of sexual expression is procreation, as evidenced by numerous rabbinic discussions on the mitzvah of sexual intimacy and pleasure and, a new Mission Statement coming out this summer by the CCAR’s ad hoc committee on human sexuality.
And finally, Rabbi Kahn says, “the situation of gay and lesbian Jews among us points out the need for new categories in our thinking. Reform Judaism is committed to affirming the responsibility of the individual. Can we not teach ourselves and our children that a different gender relationship is the proper form of kedusha for many, and a same gender relationship may be a proper form for others? Can we not create a plurality of expressions of covenantal responsibility and fulfillment, and teach that different Jews will properly fulfill their Jewish communal and religious responsibilities in different ways?”
I believe that encouraging commitment, stability and openness in same gender families does not and will not undermine the institution of family but rather, enhance it. At present, many gay and lesbian Jews are estranged from our synagogues, our Jewish communities, and their families of origin because of continued fear, stigma, and oppression.
In 1993, the UAHC passed a resolution calling for spousal benefits for gay and lesbian partners and for “legal means” of recognizing their relationships. It stopped short, however, from using the term “marriage.” The Reconstructionist movement is, to date, the only one to support religious ceremonies of commitment for gay and lesbian couples. Many Reform rabbis perform them, but the CCAR is still studying the matter as part of a larger project to develop a Jewish sexual ethic for our time. The final version of that report, I believe, will be presented this summer if it hasn’t already been presented.
I needn’t remind you of the prejudice, we as a people, have and continue to have from others simply because we are Jews. And I also needn’t remind you of what’s going on in Israel right now with respect to religious pluralism. Today, in the Diaspora, if a Jew by Choice is converted by a reform, recontructionist or conservative rabbi, he or she is entitled to become a citizen of Israel under the Law of Return but will not be considered a Jew. And what is before the Kenneset is that if a Jew by Choice in Israel is converted by a Reform Rabbi, he or she will not be considered a Jew.
Therefore, I ask those of you who care about the “Jewish Family”, support the legalization of gay and lesbian marriage. There are thousands of gay and lesbian Jews who want to have families, get married and have a religious ceremony performed by their rabbis. I am one of them. If the Jewish community genuinely cares about family, it will support gay people as well as straight in our attempts to establish, loving families. Thank you.
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your lapel buttons
Many people have lapel buttons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jacket you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any laying around that you do not feel emotionally attached to, please let me know. I preserve these for the Jewish people. At some point they will all go to an appropriate museum. You can see all the buttons shared to date.