Reader Responses to Anti-Marriage Amendment


A few weeks ago, we wrote to our email lists suggesting that people write to Hannah Rosenthal at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, to their Senators and Congress and to letters to editors pages of their local press through our new grassroots action technology.

We have already received about 300 letter-copies. Many were deeply thoughtful, reflecting a range of political and emotional responses to an issue which is so charged at this time. We are printing just a few of the letters we received below.

Remember that you can add your comments to any of our articles by registering and using the "add new Comment" link at the bottom of each.

Dear Ms. Rosenthal,

I am a Conservative rabbi, and in some ways you might say that I am on the traditional side of things. Now that I am no longer in pulpit work, we doven at an Orthodox shul. Our daughter attends an Orthodox girls Yeshiva high school, and we may be sending our son to an Orthodox Yeshiva high school next year.

But I refuse to sit blindly by and watch the Jewish community participate in gay bashing and in preventing those who have no other choice from having their love legally and officially validated. True, the Torah does prohibit homosexual acts, but it also permits slavery and calls for the death penalty in many realms that we, today, see as personal matters. We do not support execution for breaking Shabbat, for cursing a parent (how many teen-agers would live to adulthood?) or for other matters. We have progressed, thank God!

I am not calling on religious groups to validate gay unions if that goes against their passionately held beliefs. But I am calling on the Jewish community to accept what Genesis 2 has God saying, "It is not good for a human being to be alone!" No person should be sentenced to a life of loneliness!

I absolutely support gay unions and gay marriage. I support monogamy in straights and in gays, and I celebrate that as union of souls be it straight or gay!

We, in the Jewish community, should remember when our religious practices, our very being, were negated by society. We remember when inter-racial marriage was illegal and black-white couples could be arrested, killed or worse!

I am thankful that my two children are straight, but if one or both were gay, I would celebrate that child's reality and not only dance at his/her wedding, I would officiate as a rabbi! And if a Jewish couple of the same gender would come to me and ask me to officiate at their wedding, I would. There would be modifications, but I celebrate love as a gift from God.

Please do not utilize Jewish resources and the power of the Jewish community to victimize those whose biology, whose destiny, gave them an alternative way of finding love and companionship. Let us act out of compassion!

Let us celebrate life in its diversity. Let us celebrate Jewish life in its wonderful spiritual & political diversity.

Rabbi Daniel Epstein

Dear Ms. Rosenthal:

Even though I live in a predominately Christian country, I am a committed Jew who is proud to have the right to practice my religion. I am well aware that I am not in the mainstream and have some fundamentalist Christian co-workers who believe I will go to hell because I have not been baptized. Yet, as an American, I have the right to be and live as a Jew despite others' prejudices.

I am also a happily married heterosexual woman who values the institution of marriage. Today some communities - including some major Jewish communities— believe that same-sex as well as other-sex couples should have the right to choose marriage, with its joys and its responsibilities. Allowing that choice does not burden anyone. It allows everyone to choose their own religious perspective.

So I oppose the Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution that some members of Congress and the President are proposing.

I urge JCPA to oppose the Amendment and to support governmental actions that allow same-sex couples to marry.

Leslie S. Leff

Dear Senators Schumer and Clinton,

I am a concerned Jew who believes that God wants different religious communities to understand God in their own ways, without governmental pressure, just as the First Amendment intended.

If government has a role in authorizing what constitutes a marriage, then it must do so in a manner that does not presuppose one or another religious view or set of values. Alternatively, government can (and perhaps should) regulate only the legal administration of household unions — protecting rights, protecting children, supporting loving, responsible partners in building our democratic society. In this way our society will function with equal protections for all, and for the benefit of all.

For this reason I oppose the Anti-Marriage Amendment that some members of Congress and the President are proposing.

Please stand up for all Americans and against particularist, religious definitions of marriage and family.

Thank you.

Jonathan Slater

Dear Ms. Rosenthal:
I am a committed Jew and Past President of Congregation Havurah, Buffalo, New York. I am also a lesbian mother of a beautiful daughter, whom my partner and I have raised in the Jewish faith. I truly believe that the Jewish community is a place for all our Jewish families. I also believe that God shines upon our family as God shines upon all our people.

Although my partner and I have been together for 25 years, we
had never contemplated marriage. However, the welcoming response from the UAHC regarding same-sex commitments has opened up our thinking regarding marriage. I believe that marriage, both civil and religious, would be a joyous step for our family.

Allowing this choice does not burden anyone and will enhance our spiritual lives and the lives of those in our Jewish community. In fact, many of our friends from our congregation have urged us to take this step.

Therefore, I oppose the Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution that some members of Congress and the President are proposing. I urge JCPA to oppose the Amendment and to support governmental actions that allow same-sex couples to marry.

At this time, we need you to stand with us against this hateful movement that aims to rewrite our constitution and single out gay people in a harsh and exclusionary manner.

Shalom, Sherri L. Darrow, Ph.d.

Dear Ms. Rosenthal:

As a Massachusetts resident greatly impressed by the Constitutional Conventions in our state last week, I am now newly motivated to speak out for the rights of gays and lesbians, for the right for their partnerships to receive the benefits granted other-sex couples. I am writing you to use the collective power of the JCPA to speak out and support those asking for equal rights, as our many allies have done for Jews historically.

During the Constitutional Conventions, I was particularly moved by the Catholic Representative from Lynn, and the African-American Senator from Springfield, as they invoked their faith traditions and reminded us how people in both these groups have been leaders for social justices in this country. I know that they have also been marginalized; these men, however spoke from the strength of their current privileges we who are straight in these times currently hold.

I wonder if you saw these men speak. These were married people, just like me. They had all the benefits and nothing to lose. They spoke out, nevertheless, against the majority who conflate religious traditions with civil rights.

As a Jewish, white, heterosexual married American woman, I am proud to live in a country that has a constitution protecting rights and separating Church and State.

I feel a lack of freedom in my heart when my gay friends are denied equal treatment. I feel challenged to sit next to them in the synagogue at Yom Kippur reading the passages about sexuality from the Bible. I feel cynical when I observe the couples from my state who sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the same rights I have being challenged by people. I feel confused when I cannot understand the concerns of those who are not willing to use their power to stand up for what is being asked- to evolve the rights that not so long ago were denied to my own group.

I feel incredulous that my friends who were once in a lesbian relationship but now, due to a sex change operation, are in an opposite sex relationship, can now get married. I wonder what all the points are about male and female. I fear that when we lose the main focus of joining together that love does in the world, that marriage does, recognizing and celebrating mutuality, fidelity, commitment, we lose G-d.

The Constitution as I understand it prohibits Congress from making laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. This means to me that religious communities can express and act out our values freely. This would include the right of a congregation to make it their practice not to recognize same-sex marriages.

I also understand it to mean that the government is not allowed to make laws "respecting the establishment of religion." I believe this means we cannot make our church and synagogue practices extend beyond our own spiritual communities. We must as a civil society under the constitution respect varied religious practices but civil
rights must extend equally to all.

Today some people, including leaders in the Jewish community, believe that to live rightly with G-d is to see and honor people in same-sex committed relationships. I believe, as they do that they as well as other-sex couples to have the right to choose marriage, with its joys and its responsibilities.

Allowing that choice does not burden anyone. I have nothing to lose to extend the rights I am born with to my brothers and sisters who are bringing up families in same-sex committed relationships. I only believe I have everything to gain.

So I oppose the Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution that some members of Congress and the President are proposing.

I urge my Jewish friends and leaders, including those in the JCPA to oppose the Amendment and to support governmental actions that allow same-sex couples to marry.

Julie Meyer

My daughter, who happens to be a lesbian had a very good idea, which I believe should be considered. The question is why the government has anything to do with marriage in the first place...a union which is private and usually of a religious nature of some sort. Therefore, why doesn't the government make EVERYONE who wants to make a permanent liaison get a certificate of civil union, changing the rules of civil union to cover all the privileges that marriage has and then let "Marriage" be a totally private affair, be it religious or not. In other words, "Marriage" should not even be a word used by government. If they need to be involved, have them use "Civil Union" (in the grand sense as I described). Civil Union should be government oriented. Marriage should be privately/religiously oriented and then this issue would be moot. Government wouldn't have the right to make decisions based on religious texts because it is NOT their place to do so according to the constitution.

Eva Friedner

Dear Ms.Rosenthal:

I oppose, and want you to oppose, the Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. I base this position on more than the current law that may be interpreted to allow gay people to enjoy, and by law be protected to enjoy, the same happiness and freedom from persecution that others, including we members of the Jewish community, face all too often when we are marginalized or "outed" in unreceptive social circles. This measure threatens to far exceed its popularized sexist mandate. It threatens to limit or eliminate states' rights to interpret federal laws for the benefit of American citizens, it threatens to allow fundamentalist Christian groups to literally force their narrow concept of morality upon our multicultural society, and it undermines the most important foundations and convictions of this great nation: that we are free to practice any religion, free to pursue happiness, and free to live in a country whose laws are not conceived, written, endorsed and enforced by conservative reactionaries. The amendment amounts to the legalized terrorism of anybody who does not agree with its tenets, which smacks as soundly of HUAC as everything else the Bush administration has forced upon us, including, and especially, the so-called Patriot Acts. There is nothing holy nor loving about this amendment; it is a hate crime, Stop it if you can. If it passes, the next Bush step will be goose steps. Anybody who doesn't see that simply isn't looking.

Tom Rooth

Dear Ms. Rosenthal,
I am a Jewish lesbian who identifies with both the Reform and the Reconstructionist movements in Judaism. I am active in the Jewish community as both a lay person and as a professional, having served as President of my former congregation and as a Jewish communal professional in both Jewish Family Service agencies and Jewish Federations. I believe that being in a committed relationship has helped to strengthen my Jewish identity, my relationship with G-d, and my practice of Judaism. My partner and I, in our 16 years together, have not been a threat to any heterosexual couple. In fact, we have taught many couples about love, understanding, and spirituality. At least that is what they have shared as their blessings of the week when they come to our home to share Shabbat dinner.

My parents both expressed their feelings that my finding my soulmate, who happens to be another woman, was b'shert. As an Interfaith couple, we have provided a safe and loving place for both Christians and Jews to connect with and explore their spirituality. I do not understand how our love and commitment to each other, our experiencing life's joys and life's challenges can be seen as a threat to heterosexual relationships. Allowing people to chose their partner does not threaten anyone else's happiness or decision.

Seven years ago my partner was in a car accident and sustained a signficant head injury. She was on disabilty and in physical, speech and cognitive therapy for several years. I had total responsbity for her care and her healing process. Fortunately I had her durable power of attorney for health care which I carried with me to every visit with a new doctor and used that in every converstation about insurance, finances, etc. It was a tremendous additional burden for me to worry about whether I would have to "prove" that I had the authority to make decisions for her, since our relationship was not recongized under the law.

So I oppose the Anti-Marriage Amendment to the Constitution that some members of Congress and the President are proposing.

I urge JCPA to oppose the Amendment and to support governmental actions that allow same-sex couples to marry.

Harriet L. Cohen

Dear Ms. Rosenthal:

It is important that the JCPA is not backing off from where we as an organized Jewish community should stand on the issue of same-sex marriage. I would like to share my perspective as a committed Jew, as a U.S. citizen committed to fundamental civil liberties, and as a resident of Massachusetts, where this issue is being hotly debated, and where I have had the opportunity to listen to various points of view on the topic.

As a broad-spectrum Jewish organization this issue is particularly challenging for us, because we will not agree about the appropriateness of same-sex unions of any kind within our religious communities. But it becomes simpler if we realize that we are not debating this as a religious issue, but rather as a public policy issue. We are looking at what should be permitted as a matter of state and national law. The requirements of Jewish law, however we understand them, are a matter of covenant between us, as Jews, and G-d. In this country, where we have the great good fortune that both freedom to practice religion and freedom from established religion are written into our most fundamental document as a nation, it is inappropriate for the tenets of our religion, or any other, be the basis for the law of the land.

The proposed amendment to the federal constitution is much worse than anything being proposed in Massachusetts. It is particularly offensive because it would not only define marriage but it would restrict and take away rights that have already been conferred in some states and localities. Are any of us really prepared to amend our constitution to take away civil rights? It is particularly ironic that this proposed amendment is being put forward by a party which claims to support states' rights.

I think that the Massachusetts SJC ruling, however controversial, got it right. It would not place any obligation on any religious body to do anything that is conflict with its religious views or commitments. It does not take anything away from any of us who are married or who have always had the right to marry.

My personal view is that giving legal sanction to same-sex unions does not in any way weaken the institution of marriage; it strengthens it. It affirms fidelity. It gives support to children who are being raised in same-sex parent families. It would allow people who care for each other and are committed to one another to fully care for one another throughout their lives.

My position is that JCPA should take an unequivocal position in opposition to attempts to amend the federal constitution and state constitutions in a way that would restrict marriage rights to one man and one woman, as a matter of civil rights. I will leave it to my rabbi, who supports civil marriage for same-sex partners, to give you the religious arguments.

Thank you for hearing my point of view.

Margot Barnet