April 10, 2008
Battle for gay marriage rights gains Jewish support
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Since 1999, same-sex couples in California have been able to register for domestic partnership rights, and in 2005 lawmakers expanded those rights to include almost all the same responsibilities and privileges of marriage, such as inheritance rights, community property and the right to request alimony if the partnership is dissolved. Federal marriage rights -- more than 1,000 of them -- are not afforded to gay couples.
While the rights are important, so is the symbolism. Tyler wants to see the word "marriage" applied to her relationship.
"There is no reason my relationship with Diane should be diminished by any other word," said Tyler, comparing her battle to California's 1948 law recognizing interracial marriages. "We've been going together for 14 years; we've known each other 34 years. We're madly in love with each other. Paris Hilton can go to Las Vegas and get married in 24 hours and get divorced 16 hours after that. We're in a committed, long-term, loving relationship. Why should the word âmarriage' be a heterosexual privilege?"
She and Olson filed a suit in February 2004 that accuses Los Angeles County of discrimination, just hours before San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex couples to marry, although a judge put a halt to those marriages about a month later. The appeals stemming from the San Francisco marriages and Tyler and Olson's case were consolidated in a review of appellate decisions now before the state Supreme Court. Arguments were heard on March 4, and a decision should be reached by early June.
But if a heterosexual definition of marriage is codified into the state constitution, a decision in Tyler's favor will be nullified.
To try to prevent that, Krantz turned to his faith leaders, Rabbi Harold Schulweis and Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, when he started Jews for Marriage Equality. In 1992, Schulweis delivered a High Holy Days sermon saying Jews should welcome gays as full and equal members of the community.
In 2006, the Conservative movement came closer to that full embrace, sanctioning commitment ceremonies and allowing gays to be ordained as rabbis. The opinion supporting those actions -- there was an opposing opinion, as well -- contended that all evidence points to homosexuality being a biological reality and not a matter of choice, so gays must be treated with equal respect. While the opinion upholds the Biblical prohibition on anal sex, it lifts rabbinic prohibitions on any other same-sex intimacy.
Dorff said the movement is now crafting a marriage ceremony and documents appropriate for celebrating same-sex unions.
While Dorff applauds these hard-won advances, he said he understands people's hesitations. His own daughter's coming out was difficult for him, not because he disapproved, but because he had to reframe his vision of what his daughter's life would look like.
But as more people have friends and family members who are gay, societal attitudes are changing. A May 2007 Gallup poll found that 62 percent of voters under the age of 35 support marriage equality.
Chaplin was recently at Temple Beth El in West Hollywood collecting signatures on a pledge form related to the upcoming election battles, and she had a short conversation with a Russian Jewish immigrant about why gay marriage is important.
"I shared with her that all I want to do is protect my family and create a secure, loving place to raise children," Chaplin said. "Marriage provides that opportunity and that security to build the large, loving, all-in-each-other's-business kind of Jewish family that I want to have. And she connected with that. She related to that. And she said, âYou changed my mind.'"
For more information, visit
Jews for Marriage Equality: http://www.jewsformarriageequality.org/
Equality California: http://www.eqca.org/site/apps/nl/newsletter2.asp?c=9oINKWMCF&b=40337
California Faith for Equality: http://www.cafaithforequality.org/
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