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Equal Marriage Rights Forum

Panel of local experts discuss the evolving views of homosexuality and definitions of marriage.

Community Contact Information:
Congregation Beth Elohim
Brooklyn, NY
www.congregationbethelohim.org


Goals:

  • Educate congregants about Jewish views on homosexuality.
  • Engage the community in equal rights advocacy.
  • Increase visibility of the issues facing families affected by anti-civil marriage legislation.

Overview:
The social action committee, knowing that a member of their congregation had been involved as legal counsel in a case which led to a ruling on gay marriage, asked her to speak to the congregation.

Preparation:
In order to include a Jewish voice in planning an event, the committee also asked the rabbi to speak about homosexuality from both a historical Jewish context and a modern Jewish context.

To increase visibility, the committee invited other local Jewish organizations to attend the event, and advertised the panel in the synagogue’s newsletter and sent press releases to the local newspaper and local gay and Jewish publications.

Project Implementation:
In order to present a more well-rounded program, several components were included in the program:

  • Jewish Context: The rabbi provided a Jewish historical context, pointing out that while Biblical and Rabbinic traditions clearly prohibit homosexuality, Reform Judaism has based its much more tolerant stance on the principle 'as each of us is made in the image of God, each of us is entitled to dignity, respect and equality.' This principle has led the URJ and the CCAR to support gay and lesbian partnerships and to oppose governmental bans on same-sex marriage, in much the same way that it led them in the past to support equal rights for racial and ethnic minorities and women.
  • Advocacy and Legal Issues: A member of the congregation who is Senior Counsel for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund provided a legal background. and urged the audience to express their feelings on the issue to their State Senators and Assembly Members.
  • Real Life Stories: A local gay couple described the real-life impacts of unequal state and federal laws on their family. Their efforts to gain the security and protections of civil marriage for each other and for their two young children prompted a heartfelt question from the youngest member of the audience: "Why do we have laws against something that will make this family happy, and won't hurt anyone else?"

Results:
Members of the larger community left the panel feeling better informed about GLBT issues and legal issues surrounding gay marriage, and were provided with information about ways to become involved in advocacy work.