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Jewish Journal

Time to Celebrate, Then Press Forward

by Susan Esther Barnes

June 26, 2013 | 9:00 am

As you’ve most likely heard (many times) by now, this morning the Supreme Court announced its rulings on two key cases regarding marriage equality: DOMA, the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” was struck down, and the California court ruling overturning Proposition 8, which disallowed same-gender marriages, was allowed to stand.

What do these rulings mean for California? First, because the Supreme Court ruled that those who appealed the Proposition 8 court ruling did not have any standing with the court, the appeals court case stands, meaning Proposition 8 has been overturned, and same-gender couples may again be married in California. Look for further announcements from the State Attorney General regarding when, exactly, such marriages will resume.

That’s great news, but it’s only part of the success. Another layer of success was added by the overturn of DOMA. Although same-gender couples have been able to be married in several states, they were still denied various benefits enjoyed by opposite-gender couples. For instance, same-gender couples were not able to file joint tax returns, receive spousal survivor’s benefits, etc. All that will change now.

Most importantly, for many couples, when a lesbian or gay person marries, his or her spouse will now be treated the same as a heterosexual spouse in regard to immigration and citizenship. As a result, many same-gender spouses who have been forced to live overseas, apart from their America spouse, will now be allowed to come home. It is, indeed, a great victory.

What do these rulings mean for your synagogue or Jewish Day School? Essentially, nothing. Neither of these rulings will force your clergy or your synagogue to allow or conduct same-gender marriages if they do not wish to do so. The rulings will not force your Jewish Day School to treat its religious teachings about same-gender couples any differently than it does now. Despite the fear-mongering of some religious people, these rulings do not, in any way, harm your freedom of religion.

Does this mean it’s time for proponents of same-gender marriage to relax? No. Although the Proposition 8 ruling allows same-gender marriage to resume in California, there are still about three dozen states in which same-gender marriage is not allowed. We will not be able to rest until marriage equality is recognized in all states.

And, of course, the opponents of same-gender marriage will not rest, either. Whether they call heterosexual marriage “traditional” marriage, ignoring the centuries of polygamy that used to be the accepted as normal, or they call it “natural” marriage, implying there is something “unnatural” about people who God made lesbian or gay, they will continue to try to force their religious beliefs and definition of marriage onto others.

Now is the time to celebrate, but now is not the time to relax. Rather, it is the time to press forward in strength.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Susan Esther Barnes is a religious Reform Jew who can regularly be seen greeting people at her synagogue before services. She is a founding member of her synagogue’s chevra...

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