Statement of Rabbi Michael Namath, Program Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, at a Press Conference Concerning the Federal Marriage Amendment
Contact: Alexis Rice or Beth Kalisch
March 3, 2004
Thank you. It is a privilege to stand here today on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, on behalf of clergy and people of faith across America, and from my own religious conviction as a rabbi, to express our strong opposition to the dangerous and discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment.
The Reform Jewish Movement is deeply troubled by President Bush's decision to endorse a Constitutional Amendment that would ban states from extending the legal protections of civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Jewish values and American history require us to speak out against this egregious proposal to enshrine discrimination against a specific group of citizens and intolerance of specific religious beliefs into our nation's most sacred document.
The fight for equality is uniquely tied to the history of this nation. From the suffrage movement, to the civil rights movement, to the gay rights movement, minorities in this country have worked tirelessly to achieve the equal rights as guaranteed to them by the founding visions of the United States. It is this history, and this sense of morality that compels us to condemn the Federal Marriage Amendment and to express disappointment that the President of the United States has chosen to use his office to divide the American people rather than bringing America together.
The Reform Jewish Movement, which encompasses more than 1.5 million Americans, is a longtime supporter of equal rights for gay men and lesbians, including full civil marriage equality. We believe that all people are made b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and that the diversity of humanity reflects the vastness of the Eternal One. We do not believe that homosexuality is a sin. Judaism teaches that the family serves as the fundamental institution of society - families rooted in love between two committed, caring adults - and families devoted to raising children in a loving, supportive environment. Reform Judaism teaches that the families of loving gay and lesbian couples are capable of creating a nurturing environment for children, and that the unions of loving gay and lesbian couples are worthy of affirmation through Jewish ritual.
We place tremendous value in the diversity of religious traditions. We respect the beliefs of people whose religions are opposed to same-sex marriages. We would never - ever - want any clergy member or church to be forced to sanctify a same-sex religious wedding if he or she did not want to. But an amendment to the Constitution is not necessary to protect that freedom. The government will never force religious institutions to recognize, sanctify, or condone any marital union. In fact, this national debate in which we are embroiled has nothing to do with religious wedding ceremonies. Regardless of what our politicians decide, some religions will continue to sanctify same-sex marriages, and some never will.
Civil marriage must be differentiated from religious marriage - because religious marriage is an institution and a religious concept that must remain the domain of religion, but civil marriage is a set of legal protections and benefits that the government grants based on the possession of a civil marriage license. We do not believe that all religions should have to recognize same-sex religious marriage, but we do believe that the government must give equal protection to all its citizens and equal respect to all its religions.
Finally, the proposed constitutional amendment is not about protecting families. Certainly, my family will not be hurt by giving the states the freedom to recognize the committed spiritual relationship of two loving adults. How can two loving adults coming together to form a beautiful family harm family values? Are our families and marriages and communities so fragile and shallow that they are threatened by the love between two adults of the same sex? This proposed amendment is a stain on America's promise of equal rights for all. We call on Congress to ensure that such an effort to enshrine homophobia, intolerance, and inequality in our Constitution fails and that it does so by an overwhelming margin.
We are all God's children. We are all one people. Let us stop issuing decrees of intolerance and begin enacting legislation and implementing policies that will foster healthy, loving, caring, and committed relationships. Let us ensure that in this nation, none will ever again be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or religious conviction.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis.