With the Supreme Court due to take up the hotly contested issue of marriage equality later this month, reactions to the phenomenon of same-sex unions have ranged from the thoughtful — National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” began a series on the topic this week by engaging rank-and-file North Dakotans in conversation — to the strange (an Indiana pizza parlor was shuttered after protests of its owners’ ill-conceived declaration that their religious beliefs precluded their serving a wedding of two men or two women) to the truly bizarre.
That last distinction belongs to the slew of crackpot California propositions that have sprung up in the past couple of weeks, including a drive to empower ordinary citizens to strike down homosexuals for engaging in behavior deemed biblically abominable. Proving that some on the other side have not lost their sense of humor, one man floated the idea of a proposition outlawing the consumption of shellfish as just as biblically prohibited.
Sometimes, amid the din of the competing soundbites and the sheer madness of some people’s ideas, it’s easy to forget that at the center of the 21st century’s key civil rights debate are actual human beings. This is more than unfortunate; it’s a tragedy.
You shouldn’t need to reach a conclusion on whether or not extending the legal concept of marriage to same-sex couples is a good thing in order to realize that gay men and women, their intended spouses and their families have for far too long been treated by society at large — and within the Jewish community as well — as second-class citizens. Many who stand on religious principle in order to denigrate an entire swath of people are conspicuously silent when it comes to other religiously questionable behaviors, whether it be the consumption of shellfish or shady business practices. That unfeeling hypocrisy, more than the existence of the prohibitions themselves, is what is driving those sympathetic to LGBT causes away.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, many observant Jewish families find themselves ill-equipped in navigating the community after a son or a daughter has “come out.” Some of those families are attending a retreat this weekend in Waynesboro, Pa., hosted by Eshel. The goal of the third annual gathering, say organizers, is to empower attendees to be both effective advocates for their children in their dealings with communal institutions and caring parents at home.
“For Orthodox parents who have LGBT children, there are many levels of shanda around such an experience, and often, parents are not at ease talking about their situation with neighbors and friends,” says one local activist. “One of my battle cries has been we have far too many young people in our community that we are losing,” because of the inability to deal openly with the issues.
The Supreme Court will finally put to rest the question of the constitutionality of marriage equality, but embracing our loved ones, neighbors and friends for who they are — as opposed to what we wish them to be — will take a lot more time. Every person lost in the process only goes to show that time is what we don’t have.