I’m a Jew and I’m a lesbian. Many of the people who read my blogs and connect with me via social media would perhaps feel unsurprised at the idea that I want equal rights and I want them now. The majority of them agree with me or they wouldn’t be in my network in the first place. But twice this past week, I was knocked off my chair with the brave choices that two people made, when they declared themselves allies to the Queer community - those who stand by in support, despite their apparent differences. Those whose networks wouldn’t assume that they want equal rights for me.
As Jews, we are regularly reminded of the tenant, “If I am not for myself, who will be.” And that is no less true when these two individuals spoke out. These two people risked their audience’s devotion and support by choosing to come out as a STRAIGHT and RELIGIOUS ally on the side of the Queer community. I want to use my monthly “Oy Gay” entry as an opportunity to introduce you to them…
The first of the two was a surprise announcement called “I now support full marriage equality” by Louis J. Marinelli. This gem of a media-mogul lead a 2010 nationwide tour of the “National Organization for Marriage (NOM),” a fervent opposer of Marriage Equality and fearfully powerful voice of propaganda that influenced much of the anti-equality votes that took place in the 2008-2010 elections across many states. His sudden and direct change of heart is quite powerful, especially if you once again consider his audience. While I appreciate Mr. Marinelli’s U-turn, I can’t help but worry that the damage he has caused to date has set us far back in our quest for equality. Alas, thank you Marinelli for being brave, now I hope you’ll work to undo all the pain that you caused.
Marinelli’s already gotten too much attention in the media. Instead of focusing on him, I’d like to introduce the Jewish Queer community to a Christian friend of mine (and yours!) whom I deeply respect, named Shannon Jarrell-Ivey. I saw a post come up in my facebook feed recently about Shannon’s upcoming foray into blogging on “A Hollywood Republican,” a site dedicated to “Opinions and commentary from Republicans in the entertainment industry.” She was going to be blogging, as a CONSERVATIVE and RELIGIOUS Christian, about the topic of GAY MARRIAGE. “Uh Oh,” I thought to myself. Was this another one of my indirect connections on facebook that I was swiftly going to have to delete?
And then I realized that she was asking for support from both her gay and Christian friends for talking points, ideas from both sides of the argument, and a frame with which to approach this divisive topic. Shannon was studying. Mind you, she’d already come to her own opinion that the LGBT community deserved equal rights, but was stumbling through how to work an argument in favor of removing the term “marriage” from the conversation. She wanted to bring important historical and biblical references in, voices from both sides, and most importantly, enter into a space that certainly was not guaranteed to welcome her POV. I wondered if she knew what she was getting herself into.
Shannon wrote her article in two parts:
The First Part is called “For the Love of Gay” and gives an in-depth look at how Christianity (loosely defined) judges homosexuality, where the conflicts are in the bible, and an account of Shannon’s own personal journey to come to the conclusion that Gay men and women should have the same rights that she and her husband do.
The commentary on her first piece is fraught with messages and responses that make me cringe. One particular woman named Mary says some of the most close-minded and horrible things that I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard quite a few. However, the conversation is also full of Conservative Christians and regular visitors to the site who voice their support of Shannon’s stance. They talk about their own journey to acceptance and a desire to reverse the trend of teen suicide for Queer Youth.
I am incredibly proud of Shannon for choosing to use her platform for such a brave choice. Despite multiple personal attacks and repeated attempts to tell her she “wasn’t Christian enough,” Shannon stayed strong, responded to each comment, and even followed through with writing her Second Blog subtitled “Mawwiage” (a reference to one of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride), in which she directly addressed the issue of Marriage as a religious institution vs. a matter of legal declaration.
Many of the same arguments that Shannon made are applicable to the Jewish community. I hope that within our tribe, many more conservative Jews will be brave like Shannon and stand with those of us who long to stay loyal to our faith and our G-d and don’t want to be excluded from the Passover table, if you will.
I say “bravo!” and THANK YOU, Shannon. We won’t win this battle without brave allies like yourself willing to stand up and redefine this issue not as simply a “gay issue” that only the LGBT community is affected by. We are ALL affected by this issue and all have to stand up for one another when we are victims of injustice.