As we were welcoming two new Jews into the Jewish people during a conversion ceremony, a few miles down the street in Downtown Indianapolis, another chapter in the struggle for marriage equality was unfolding.
Soon after a federal court judge struck down the discriminatory marriage law of our state on June 25, couples were lined up to get married. By the time I came back to Fort Wayne later that day, our members Harriet Miller and Monica Wehrle were already among the first to tie the knot – aided by Senior Judge Michael Rush, a Temple member, who officiated at the solemnization of their union of more than 37 years.
They were married on Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday afternoon I had been contacted by two other couples who wanted their marriages solemnized. Neither couple was affiliated with the Jewish community (although one of the women was Jewish) nor were the ceremonies “Jewish” in any traditional way. But these recognitions were Jewish in the sense that they were opportunities to show our support for same-sex couples.
Many clergy who performed same-sex ceremonies during the short window had concerns that we were not treating these couples equally. We did not require pre-marital counseling or a follow-up discussion, as we usually do. At the end, most local clergy who, like myself, were able (and eager) to perform same-sex weddings did it because we felt the importance and urgency of the situation. By Shabbat, it was all over, and we were back to living in a state that treats some loving relationships as having less value than others. Yet things are moving quickly nationally and we may have a positive resolution to this inequality.
If same-sex marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time, it is imperative to act quickly, to take a stand in favor of equality, to “stand on the side of love,” as our Unitarian Universalist friends put it.
Solemnizing same-sex marriages was for me an issue of social justice for couples who, in many cases, have been living as a family for decades. During the time it was legal, albeit brief, it was an honor and a joy for me to be a part of it. The ceremonies also were a way to represent our Jewish values and the willingness of our congregation to welcome all families.
The future looks bright, but equality will not just come on its own. We must continue to work toward it by being vigilant against prejudice and by taking every opportunity to express our support for the issue, not only as a civil rights issue, but also as an issue that we as Jews see as an integral part of our value system and of what we envision as a just and equitable society. Let’s bring it back!