Posted by Maital Guttman
Rabbi Fred Guttman is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, NC. The synagogue is at the forefront of LGBT inclusion, especially in the South, with its annual LGBT Shabbat and Seder. He is guest blogging in response to the most recent ruling to overturn Prop 8.
The struggle for LGBT equality is at the forefront of the civil rights movement. We see discrimination that is either condoned or approved by local and federal government on a range of topics from employment to marriage and immigration to adoption. Thankfully, we are beginning to see progress made, but there is still much work to be done.
This week Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8, California’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights recruited Ted Olson, a conservative, and David Boies, a liberal, to serve as the lead lawyers in a federal court challenge to the amendment. Prop 8 campaign leaders and extreme right-wing organizations like the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family succeeded in denying Americans the opportunity to watch this historic trial on television.
Ted Olson, the legendary attorney who teamed up with one-time adversary David Boies to successfully lead this case. You might remember them as the tow lead attorneys in the Bush v Gore case after the election in 2000. Olsen said it better than anyone when he said:
“If there was ever a trial in the history of our country that the American people should have seen, it was this one.”
The ruling states “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. (Full text)”
Proposition 8, adopted by ballot initiative in 2008, effectively denies gay and lesbian individuals the same rights afforded heterosexual couples under the law. Judge Walker’s decision reaffirms the strong commitment to equality upon which our nation is built.
At Temple Emanuel of Greensboro, we are desirous to communicate that gays and lesbians are truly welcome, not merely tolerated. There will be no asterisks, no hidden messages. We will sincerely welcome all who wish to explore the Jewish journey towards spirituality and social justice.
The issue of LBGT rights is front and center on our agenda as reform Jews.
We will strenuously oppose Defense of Marriage laws and amendments to state constitutions.
We will continue to support efforts to provide the legal mechanisms necessary in order that all LGBT couples who wish to enter into a relationship whether one calls it a marriage or a civil union will have ALL of the same legal rights that heterosexual couples currently enjoy.
We will continue to work for passage of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in Congress.
We will continue to advocate on a state level for acts such as the School Violence Prevention Act and initiatives that would expand the protection of the state hate crimes law to gays and lesbians.
When it comes to weddings and marriage, Judaism is very specific. Traditionally, a Jewish wedding can really take place in one of two ways. The first way is to sign a Ketubah, a Jewish marriage document. Technically, at our weddings, after the Ketubah is signed, the couple is already married and there is no reason to continue on with a ceremony. Obviously, however, most do.
The ceremony itself has two main parts in it. The first part is the exchange of rings, where the couple says to one another, “Behold you are consecrated to me as my wife or my husband in keeping with the tradition of Moses in Israel.” And the second is the traditional seven marriage blessings, which are said by the Rabbi or the Cantor. These seven blessings are some two thousand years old and ask that the couple is experiencing maybe like that of the original couple in the Garden of Eden and that that joy should be experienced in the city of Jerusalem.
I am forbidden by North Carolina State Law to officiate at a wedding where I have not been presented with a marriage license. I have to sign off on the marriage license and send it to the Register of Deeds here in Guilford County. However, I want to stress that from a Jewish perspective, just having a marriage license is really not a Jewish wedding, nor does it constitute a Jewish marriage.
I mention this because I honestly do believe that there is an issue of Church-State separation here. The State may give legal status to a civil union between a husband and a wife, but it is solely our religious tradition that can give to a Jewish couple a sanctification of their union. As a matter of fact, the word for marriage, Kiddushim, means just that, sanctification.
Events of the past week have convinced me more than ever that we as Jews need to uphold and extend even further the separation of Church and State, especially as it applies to marriage. It is time for the government to get out of the “marriage business.” The government’s job should be to protect the rights of American Citizens to enter into contractual unions with one another, regardless of sexual preference. Marriage should be left to the realm of religious institutions and clergy. For those who want some sort of non-sectarian union, there is always the option of having such a ceremony performed by a judge or a Justice of the Peace.
Finally, I wanted to say that, from a Jewish perspective, this is not only an issue of Church and State separation and the protection of the rights of American Citizens to enter into contractual unions with one another. As Jews, we are guided by the very basic belief that all human beings are created b’tselem Elohim, “in God’s own image.” As Rabbi David Saperstein said in Congressional testimony in support of Economic Non-Discrimination Act, “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.”
We will reject what we consider to be selective reading of biblical texts, which in our opinion often comes from a homophobic perspective.
We condemn the reading of the Hebrew bible to support homophobic positions which would isolate homosexuals for special admonition.
Like heterosexual men and women, LGBT’s are God’s children, capable of bringing light and love to a planet whose darkness is caused not only by sin, but also misguided judgmentally.
Finally as Jews, we remember that some sixty years ago, the Nazi war machine killed 6,000,000 Jews and three hundred thousand Roma or gypsies. Let us not forget however that eight years prior to the mass murder of Jews, homosexuals and people of special needs were gassed in an effort to “purify” the Aryan race.
Our society often says the fashionable slogan of “Never Again,” but do we really mean it?
So we know, of course, that this decision will be reviewed by other Courts, including in all likelihood, the U.S. Supreme Court. Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage launched a counter-attack to rally the religious right, calling Walker’s decision a sign of a “Soviet-style” government takeover of marriage, leading the way as conservative groups stroke a backlash against the decision. Apparently, those against the Prop 8 decision will stop at nothing to delegitimize this decision before it ever reaches the Supreme Court.
And we know that the long march to full marriage equality will not be uninterrupted; there will be victories such as we celebrate today as well as setbacks. But it becomes clearer every day that we are now, finally and blessedly, on a road that is destined to end with justice for gay and lesbian Americans.
In a statement this week, the national leadership of the Reform Movement wrote: “We will continue to stand with the LGBT community in California, and all who cherish justice, as this case makes its way through the Court system. We are proud of the leadership roles played by so many Reform Movement rabbis and activists, and we stand ready to work with them as we move forward.”
So as Reform Jews, we welcome this week’s crucial ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker, holding that California’s ban on same-sex marriage is a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.
As Reform Jews, we believe that when we first are able to see the beauty in others, only then will our eyes be opened and we will be able to see that beauty within ourselves. When we first are able to be kind to others, only then will we be able to open up and be kind to ourselves. When we first are able to forgive others, only then will we be able to open up and forgive ourselves. In our world as God made it. Let us cherish the fact that there are those of different religions and races and those of different sexual persuasions.
Friends when we look at others who might be different from us, let us cherish their difference and appreciate their diversity. When we see them as beautiful holy manifestations of the divine, we are seeing them as God sees them!
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September 7, 2010 | 4:39 pm
Posted by Brandon Gellis
I identify as being gay and Jewish. I do not however know which if any, I identify with more. With growing interest in blogging, I’ve gained a greater inclination towards reading more blogs, and being more observant of Internet discussions. Recently, I read this blog, http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/blog/2004/02/on_being_gay_an.html, which made me think of the “parallel universes” I live in. After thinking about this for a bit I thought why not blog about it? Growing up in a richly Jewish neighborhood I blended pretty well with those around me, but attending a highly diverse high school and college, I became a minority, in a number of ways.
Prior to high school I was taunted and called names like “fag” and “queer,” once high school rolled around the bullying ceased and criticism was more in the form of looks, whispers, and questions about my sexuality. Not until the last 7-8 years did I have the foresight to became more proactive about gay rights, equitability, and even consider how being gay may be an “issue.” Now living in a much smaller community, which noticeably houses more gays than Jews, I have become more sensitive to parallels between being gay and being Jewish.
Before, being surrounded by so many Jews, enabled my naïveté or hid from me the realities that some folks don’t understand Jews like they don’t understand gays, like they don’t understand inter-racial couples, families that adopt multi-national children, single-parent families (and unfortunately the list goes on and on). For me it all boils down to one basic question or sentiment, “Just how scary is the unknown, to you?”
I think many may agree that a great amount of the world’s criticism/judgments/scare-factor is based on fear and not knowing. I have noticed that while previously, I never felt persecuted or judged for being openly Jewish, as I have at times for being openly gay, I have noticed a culture change where I live, work, and play. For the most part, diversity is respected in my community, there are definitely times when some people lose perspective, choose to conveniently misstate information, or out-right neglect to be inclusive.
I do see many parallels between the two worlds I live in. I see the same acceptance, indifference, and judgment around me, just on a clearer, more easily distinguishable scale now.
August 28, 2010 | 11:10 pm
Posted by Chanel Dubofsky
Tonight, during Havdalah, when the spice bag was under my nose, I made sure to take an especially deep breath in, thinking about what it means to have this particular week, the one in which we marked the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States, come to an end.
I’m loathe to discuss the role of Jews in American politics, but suffice it to say, we are ambivalent at best about our relationship to political power. I think often about what would happen if we did not take the vote for granted, if we understood the impact we could have if we voted regularly and thoughtfully. Equality Week, as the week recognizing the anniversary of suffrage is called, is also an opportunity to contemplate, unflinchingly, our power in the Jewish community as queer allies, and how we might better use it. Voting, after all, is about power, and allyship about using privilege opening access to power. We can use this power to push ourselves, and others, past the point where we believe that believe that, because women vote, the work is done. What can be done to create a Jewish community that’s actually inclusive, instead of tolerant (an insipid word, and a more insipid concept).
Power and privilege might seem like complicated concepts, but what it comes down to is this: either we believe in a Jewish people that is capable and committed to change and justice, or we don’t. If we don’t, the conversation cannot end here. If the answer is yes, we owe it to ourselves and each other to move the concept of equality to a higher level.
August 26, 2010 | 7:13 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On August 16th, I boarded a plane along with 24 other cast members of Beit T’Shuvah’s original musical Freedom Song, heading to Minneapolis for a single performance. I have been the Freedom Song Coordinator for the past 2 years and have helped plan performances all over the country. I have also been a cast member and played several different roles in the play. This twin city tour was very meaningful to me because it was the last one that I was responsible for coordinating. I have decided that it is time for me to move on from Beit T’Shuvah and to try something new, and this will be my last week there.
Freedom Song has two separate storylines playing out simultaneously that do not interact directly, yet are deeply connected by their parallel themes. On one side of the stage, the viewers see a family celebrating Passover, and on the other side, the actors stage a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. The way that these two stories are related is the correlation between the exodus from slavery in Egypt and the exodus from the slavery of the addictions that oppress people who are addicts and alcoholics. The cast is composed of current residents and alumni of Beit T’Shuvah. As new residents and members of the community take on different roles, the script changes, as people are encouraged to incorporate parts of their own stories.
This last show, I was the most honest that I have ever been with an audience about what my core issue that led me to be in recovery is. It was one of the bravest moments of my life. On the side of the stage where the family is celebrating Passover, the actors begin talking about the four questions. The focus then comes back to the side of the stage where the people in recovery are to speak. I stand up, and say, “I have a question… How am I supposed to spend the rest of my life being truthful and showing people the real me? I act like a chameleon, constantly changing who I am because I’m so afraid that people will stop loving me because I’m gay. In the end I feel lost, unbearably empty, and all alone… just me and my different masks.” I was able to stand up with pride and speak this line in front of 800 people in the audience of the Sabes JCC. What struck me was how I had been so fearful of being open, yet the words flowed smoothly and profoundly. My lines came naturally because I have come to understand and respect my own my struggles. When I first became part of the cast of Freedom Song, I was having a really hard time remembering the lines that I had written based on my own story. Rabbi Mark Borovitz said that it was because I hadn’t really faced this core issue, and he was right. That last performance, my lines flowed absolutely smoothly because I have done tremendous amounts of work to get to know myself and work everyday to be the best person I can be. That evening in Minneapolis brought me one step closer to freedom because I allowed myself to be vulnerable and allowed myself to be seen.
August 24, 2010 | 3:27 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
The day that I was awakened to the fact that I was dying, I had recently been experiencing a plethora of vivid dreams. Consistent processions, with each nap and every slumber, I opened my eyes to begin the day with clear narratives and images that expressed how I’d been feeling or what I wanted, but was unable to convey - even to myself. I had dreams where I’d be sitting across from someone who said candidly, “You’ll never be alone at the table again.” Dreams where I understood someone in my life, because we got a chance to talk; albeit in a dream, but it set off radiant light bulbs that gave me the mighty rejuvenation I needed to keep going forth. I was starting to write again in the way that flowed naturally through me, often times getting inspiration from old journals. I chuckled when I would come across the great many notes, reminders and vignettes I wrote down three, four, five years ago in those journals: messages for me to stay positive and stay good.
On this day, I awakened to learn that I had but a short time in this life. Naturally, I met myself. All of a sudden I knew how to really articulate who I was in a simile, or a smile, for that matter. I poured out some words on a “notepad”:
I often feel like Israel -
Misunderstood though I’m really just striving to exist peacefully;
But never settling for less than
Standing up for and defending what needs be…
In that instant, I for once, really knew the meaning of my temperaments, passionate they are.
On this day, I met one of G-d’s emissaries sent before me to remind me to “stick with Him”, though she said she didn’t know what that meant, but that I would. She didn’t say “Christ”, this beautiful African American woman - no, she said G-d. “G-d says to stick with Him.” I became Elul-ogized because I felt her legit-ness.
This past year dangled on a pendulum swinging back and forth between exciting and confusing, with a stream of pleasant feelings intertwined with unexpected heartaches and deep wounds. Great things flourished, but I was thrust into constant death and loss, miscommunication and misinterpretations so regularly in 5770, that one day life became a bit more clear to me and I only noticed it because I’d been wrestling so much with things that did not make sense. Now all I could do to be the best and most energetically-full Me, with all my overlapping identities, was move forward with the goodness in my heart, dance, and keep telling my Truth. People will definitely find ways to judge, not understand, try to shame and put into a bad light a Jew, a Woman, any person of Color and the community of LGBTQs, but I must not succumb to anything but being who I am.
I am a manifestation of good, of G-d, no matter the opinions of others, and especially not when the people who misconstrue you the most may be the same people whom you are shocked would even be doing such a thing in the first place. While everyone remains selfish in meeting another halfway, a person’s intentions will continually be misconstrued and not given a respectful chance to be communicated about to achieve a bit of understanding. However, as I shed my upsets and disappointments with circumstances and leave them into the past to which I move on from, I go back to what my heart knows - “sticking with G-d”. May the new person of great possibilities emerge - happy, shiny, renewed, and hopefully, a little more understood. Life will go on no matter what, so now that I am fully aware that I, too, will die soon, I look forward to a new year that feels as good as I am feeling now as I reflect inwardly and begin anew again. May this year be sweet, kind and nice. May I continue to live 100%, and a good 100% at that.
Question in order to understand. Until next time, Shanah Tovah.
August 19, 2010 | 11:41 am
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
In general, I’ve been fortunate to find Jewish spaces to be affirming of my sexual orientation. Perhaps this is a result of self-selecting to only participate in communities that are already affirming, but whatever it is, I’m pretty thankful for it.
I recently moved to Chicago, and as a way to start my engagement with the Jewish community, I went to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. I signed up for lots of email lists, including the Young Women’s group and the volunteer list. I purposely avoided the Young Adult group, because I’ve found these settings to be meat markets – let’s find you a Jewish spouse – at particularly heteronormative. (Not sure what that means? Look it up here.) Given that I’m already in a relationship – albeit with a non-Jew – I’m not interested.
Apparently as part of the “coding” process at the Federation, participants’ demographic information is recorded, including marital status. Now, as a reminder, in Illinois, much like in 45 other states, same-sex couples cannot legally marry.
The person with whom I was emailing asked, “Are you single or married?”
Well, hmm. First, I’m in a committed relationship of three years. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself single, but we’re taking lots of baby steps toward marriage. We just moved in together, so I wouldn’t consider us married. And, of course, we can’t be legally married in Illinois.
So, I simply stated, “Well, I’m in a committed, long-term relationship, so neither of those categories really work for me.”
The person responded, “Okay, for coding purposes, I’ll list you as single.”
I was shocked. I could not have been the first person to not easily fit into the single/married dichotomy. As data would show, there are lots of us in between – dating, cohabiters, domestic partners, civil unioners (??), etc.
And, mind you, I hadn’t disclosed that my person, with whom I’m in this committed, long-term relationship, is a woman.
After some ranting on Facebook and gathering the support of my friends, I wrote a calm, but firm email to the Federation. Families come in all shapes and sizes – some of us can’t legally marry, while some of us choose not to. Our families should be respected just the same. And, is a single/married classification so utterly important to the work of the Federation?
From my work with an incredible organization called Keshet, I knew that changes in forms were low-hanging fruit in terms of ways for Jewish organizations to be more welcoming of LGBT people and families, but also lots of people who don’t fit into the standard boxes - Jews by choice, Jews of color. So, maybe my email would help the Federation here in Chicago become more welcoming.
And, it turns out that this attempt to “code” me as a participant, I helped changed the Federation.
I was pleased to receive a very apologetic voicemail from the VP of Marketing at the Federation. She admitted that this was a change that, “frankly, we need to make” and that she appreciated my bringing it to their attention.
This may be a small change, but it is my hope that this single/married box and the conversation that we started may influence other forms – mother/father on children forms, male/female on the sex boxes. One can hope, right?
August 17, 2010 | 12:28 pm
Posted by Janelle EagleMy dear friend, Kadin Henningsen is amazing. He is a board member at BCC in Los Angeles, a founding member of JQ International's Trans Inclusion Commitee, and has just been names as a 2010/11 Jeremiah Fellow. Needless to say he's impressive. In celebration of his achievements, I have decided to donate my monthly entry at Oy Gay to his incredible words. See below for his take on last week's parshah and how we can related it to the recent decisions in California about Proposition 8 and gay marriage...
August 16, 2010 | 11:36 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
TG Film Fest, presented by the Trans/Giving arts collective, features films by trans, genderqueer, and intersex filmmakers, a
DJ, live performances, and art for sale. The TG Film Fest, LA’s transgender film festival, showcases entertaining, poignant, and intriguing visions from the queerest part of the LGBT spectrum. From food to dating to bathrooms the festival promises affirmation and surprises for everyone. TG Film Fest is the only event in LA dedicated to the work of established and emerging trans filmmakers. Join us August 28th in Hollywood.
The second film screening, at 1:30 pm on August 28th, boasts two films by Jewish filmmakers, and a documentary about a trans Jewish artist, Claude Cahun. Zsa Zsa Gershick’s Door Prize won for Best Short at the 2010 Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Kalil Cohen’s The Next Gender Nation is a documentary short about the experiences of gender variant youth in Los Angeles public schools. The 55 minute documentary Lover Other is by celebrated filmmaker Barbara Hammer. 1920’s Surrealist artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore come to life in this hybrid documentary. Lovers and step-sisters, the gender-bending artists lived and worked together all their lives. Heroic Jewish resisters to the Nazis occupying Jersey Isle during WWII, they were ahead of their times in many ways. Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer infuses this film with vigor using photographs, archival footage, dramatic interludes of a “found Cahun script”, and unique interviews of Jersey Isle residents who knew the “sisters”. The community sponsor for this film screening is JQ International’s Trans Inclusion Committee.
The entire shorts program includes the following films:
1:30 pm Queerly Drawn Lines
These genre-blurring short films weave elements of documentary and narrative film to entertain and enlighten. Bulemic boyfriends, bathroom buddies, and “strange sisters” all have their place in this unique collection of short films.
Lil Basenji by Gina Kamenski 2 mins Door Prize by Zsa Zsa Gershick 8 mins
Falling In Love…with Chris and Greg Episode 3: Food! by Chris Vargas and Greg Youmans 26 mins
The Next Gender Nation by Kalil Cohen 5 mins
In These Words She Says to You by Daniel Flores 7 mins
Lover Other by Barbara Hammer 55 mins
*presented in collaboration with community sponsor JQ International Trans Inclusion Committee*
What: TG Film Fest
When: August 28th, 2010 11:30am - 9pm
Where: The Renberg Theater
1125 N McCadden Pl Los Angeles CA 90038
$20 suggested donation, no one turned away
Contact phone number: 424 248 5471
Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=135823033107433&index=1