"Don't Love, Don't Marry": Coercion & Compassion in America

You could say that the repeal of the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law in the just-expiring Congress delivers this message to gay men and lesbians:

Kill & die? Yes;
Love & marry? Not so fast!

For 25 years, The Shalom Center has worked toward full equality for gay men and lesbians within the Jewish community and in American life generally.  So we welcome Congressional passage of the law permitting free participation by gay men and lesbians in the Armed Forces, and hope the President will implement it swiftly and fully.

The new law was a step forward. At the same time, let us note the irony that our society has now affirmed fuller equality where being ready to die and kill is crucial, but only in patches here and there has been ready to affirm full equality to love and to marry.

Far more important will be repeal of the Federal so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (more accurately, the "Don't Marry Act").   And most important of all, action in many more states—New York, Illinois, and California should be high on the list --  to affirm same-sex marriage. That will make love both the medium and the message.

"Love your neighbor as your self"  is the heart-teaching of all religious traditions. It is a travesty that some claimants to faith turn it inside out. For The Shalom Center's approach to same-sex marriage, see many articles here:
And especially this one:

Human beings are wired both for cooperation and competition, both compassion and coercion.  Our communities can choose to strengthen either one. Religious communities that presumably are rooted in "Love your neighbor as yourself" should be taking active steps to awaken and strengthen that reality, not just the words.

For example, imagine rabbis, ministers, imams, priests in New York State or Pennsylvania or Illinois who choose to perform same-sex marriages then suing the state to insist these marriages be registered.  Imagine them notifying their congregants that beginning next January 1, they will not officiate at any marriages at all unless the state has by then legalized same-sex marriage -- and urging their congregants to demand that be done.

Even more profound and perhaps more powerful, imagine this:

Praying in pews forces us to see only the back of our neighbors' heads. What if the norm in our congregations were to sit in circles and horseshoes where we could see each others' faces? What if early in every service, we paused to look with care at every face around the circle, murmuring to ourselves, "This face is the Face of God. And this, so different, is the Face of God.  And this – And this – so different not only in lips and nose, in shape, in color, but so different in its past, its future, from all the others. This, and this, and this – all Faces of the One. And the other faces, green-leafed, breathing out what we breathe in  -- green Faces of the One."

Pharaoh, Caesar, Abu-Jahl may fall for a moment –- but their tyranny returns unless we create new forms of community, compassion, love that can encompass their power – and transcend it.


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