I have a very vivid memory of being back in 6th grade at the local elementary school in north Orange County, watching a film based on futurist Alvin Toffler’s best-selling 1970 book, Future Shock, which predicted a cyber-filled future with people feeling disoriented from, in his words, “ too much change in too short a period of time".
The most memorable scene was one in which two men were depicted getting married to each other. The howls and screams of “ICK” hung heavily in the classroom and I think the teacher had to momentarily stop the film and tell us to quiet down.
Flash forward to last week when our 18-year-old with developmental disabilities decided to watch the animated Disney version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in which the high-spirited gypsy Esmeralda is the only one in the nasty Paris crowd during the Feast of Fools who steps in to help Quasimodo, the deformed hunchback and bell-ringer of Notre Dame. She tells the evil Frollo, that she feels empathy toward Quasimodo because as a gypsy, her people have also been shunned by the larger society. Not my favorite Disney movie by a big margin, but it got me thinking.
As Jews, we are keenly aware of the terrible virus of anti-Semitism that spread from our people’s earliest encounters with the Greeks, then early Christians and then to the Muslims, racial anti-Semitism and of course reaching its nadir with the Nazis (who also targeted homosexuals, gypsies and the disabled for extermination).
Because of this unfortunate historical legacy, we have a special obligation to speak out publicly for those at the margins of society, who just want the same rights as anyone else, including of course the right to fall in love and get married. Having two adults legally loving each other is not something to be scared of, no more than having people with severe disabilities living in the community.
Before the American Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, business could legally discriminate against people with disabilities, and physical access kept people with physical disabilities out of many museums, airports, and workplaces. This one piece of legislation literally changed the environment for millions of Americans, and we are all the better for it. Ending marriage inequality for same-sex couples will have the same long-term positive impact, but we need to stop saying “ick” and let everyone say “I Do” instead.