It was on a summer day almost exactly 18 years ago, a day even hotter than this one, that I stood outside in the courtyard of the French brasserie, Marche’ in the West Loop area of Chicago, and said to Brad and Yoni, “By choosing to stand here under this chupah – symbol of the Jewish home – you are placing your relationship under the canopy of the Covenant between God and Israel. By choosing to exchange rings – symbolizing your link to one another – you are linking your lives to the hundreds of generations who have stood here and exchanged rings before you. And though your sexuality may be different than theirs, the essence of your relationship is not. You are two human beings; two people created by God, blessed by God’s gift of the spirit we call love. And through that love you have found fulfillment deep enough and commitment strong enough to make that relationship the most special, the most important, the most central element of your lives. In Judaism, we call that kind of relationship, “kadosh,” “holy.” We call this marriage ceremony, “kiddushin,” the rite which establishes this bond as holy.”
Brad and Yoni exchanged rings, using the same vow that is used in heterosexual Jewish weddings, and were religiously married in one of the most Jewish weddings at which I have ever officiated. By that I mean that the Brad and Yoni were very committed, liberal Jews; that they had a Klezmer band and danced the horah longer than at most weddings I have attended; but, most of all, because of the values that were expressed through the celebration of this wedding. Those values include some of the most fundamental of our Jewish tradition:
- Every human being is made in the image of God and the potential for a fully committed, holy relationship (“kiddushin”) has been implanted by God in all of us.
- As a people who experienced what it was like to be “strangers in the Land of Egypt,” and were “outsiders” in the societies in which we lived throughout much of our history, we are commanded to make sure that those who have been excluded or treated as “other” are treated as equals in the societies in which we live today. We cannot say that those who are gay are truly equal if we do not recognize their relationships as equal to those of heterosexual couples, as one’s sexuality is expressed through one’s relationships.
What the Supreme Court did not do was establish marriage equality – the right of same sex couples to wed – as a right for all Americans. That has been left to each state to determine. We can expect that the battle over the freedom to marry will intensify in New Jersey. If you want to get involved in support of marriage equality in our state I suggest going to www.gardenstateequality.org and getting on their email list. There is much that we can do.
I am proud that our Movement, through the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, filed joined and supported amicus briefs in both the Perry and Windsor cases. The Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center have long been outspoken advocates for civil rights. (In fact, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that was struck down by the Supreme Court this week in Shelby County, Ala. V. Holder was crafted by civil rights leaders in the Religious Action Center building. Needless to say, the Religious Action Center and Reform Jewish leaders across the country decried this terrible Court decision.) View the joint statement of Reform Jewish leaders here.
May Brad and Yoni’s marriage soon be recognized in the state of Illinois and marriage equality be accepted throughout our entire union.