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Here I am: a heterosexual man, happily married to the same woman for 45 years, father of two very fine children (now both adults). Yet I am so passionate about the rights of homosexuals, as evidenced by some of my other commentaries:
And there are other comments subsidiary to these.
You must love your neighbor as yourself.
As a follower of Reform Judaism, I have learned that Jews must work for tikun olam (to heal the world). One way to do this is to fight against bigotry and for the right of every individual to live in peace and in harmony with his and her community. Historically, when oppression is directed at some group because of some perceived difference, Jews eventually become additional targets of that oppression.
Our rabbis teach us that " … every individual — regardless of his or her sexual orientation — is created in the image of God and is deserving of equal treatment." This merely follows an ancient principle that we should be tolerant of others who are different, even of those who are not Jewish. Our rabbis also teach us to seek justice for all, especially for those despised by the general population.
Although not a hierarchical religion, Reform Judaism in North America has two central support organizations.
Early in 2001, a joint committee of the UJR and the CCAR — the Joint Commission on Social Action — issued a statement that reiterates Reform Judaism's commitment to fighting discrimination against gays. Finding that the Boy Scouts of America operate contrary to that commitment, the committee's statement recommends that Reform Jewish congregations sever all relations with the Boy Scouts. My own Rabbi Alan Greenbaum (now retired) gave a sermon on Yom Kippur 2001 — the holiest day on the Jewish calendar — denouncing anti-gay discrimination as contrary to Jewish principles. Rabbi Greenbaum's successor, Rabbi Ted Riter, gave a sermon just before the November 2008 election, declaring a moral imperative to vote against Proposition 8 (which prohibited same-gender marriage).
Does this mean that Reform Judaism abandons the commandments of Leviticus. Abandons is too strong a word. Remember, we Jews originally wrote down the commandments. From the mouth of God to the hand of Moses is how we describe the Torah. Although inspired by God, the words might be flawed because they were written by imperfect men. They sometimes require interpretation or even revision.
There are other commandments:
Jewish Publication Society, 1917
Our rabbis teach us that, when a commandment conflicts with our true feelings of what is right and fair, we must first try to compensate for possible flaws in the words. Then, we should examine in our hearts how to reconcile and interpret the commandment in a way that can be supported by the other commandments, including the commandment to pursue justice. Therefore, we interpret Leviticus to say that using someone else for sexual gratification without love is the sin. Justice demands that true love is not sinful, whether it involves same-gender or mixed-gender couples.
Thus, as someone committed to his Jewishness, I find a religious imperative in supporting gays in their quest for fair treatment and equal rights — for justice.
I admit it! I have a very close relative who is gay: my daughter Heather. I suspected this for some time before she told me the truth. Yes, I was upset when I was told — not because of her homosexuality but because of the false denial when I earlier asked.
Despite everything — or because of everything — I still cherish Heather. Unlike in other families, I have not rejected my gay daughter and turned my back. Neither have I tried to change her, which would likely create someone different from the Heather I know and love very much.
I want Heather to find contentment and happiness, and I do indeed see those positive emotions now that she is legally married to another woman. But I also want the world to be safe for them, so I fight for their rights — the same rights now enjoyed by my wife and me.
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***In a world filled with dangers of all kinds, from terrorism, global warming and overpopulation to economic injustice, pension-fund raiders, serial killers and drunk drivers, it is hard to understand why so many people feel threatened by the mere existence of men and women who happen to be sexually attracted to members of their own gender.
From a review of Betty Berzon's Surviving Madness: A Therapist's Own Story, in the Los Angeles Times
*** end Right Sidebar ***
Just as the father whose daughter is an engineer should oppose gender discrimination in the workplace or the woman whose brother needs a wheelchair should oppose discrimination against the handicapped, I must fight for my daughter and for the acceptance and rights of gays.
I care because Heather now lives in Canada, where the national constitution explicitly grants equal rights to gays. There, Heather and Nancy (her wife) have made a life together. I miss my daughter, and I don't like the fact that I only see her once or twice each year. Each visit to us is fraught with concern whether Nancy, a Canadian citizen, will be allowed to enter the U.S. under the latest changes in rules for foreign visitors. They live in Canada because, under Canadian law, Nancy could sponsor Heather to be a permanent immigrant; under U.S. law, Heather could not sponsor Nancy. In Canada, federal law authorizes and recognizes same-gender marriage.
Of course I care. I want my daughter to feel welcome when she visits the nation of her birth.
Why not accept gays as equals, with the same rights, obligations, privileges, and duties as the rest of us? I do not feel threatened by gays. My marriage of more than 45 years is not put at risk by a same-gender couple who have made a life-time commitment. What other people do in their own bedroom is not my concern, just as what my wife and I do in our bedroom is not your concern. And my religion — so accepting of differences — will not be undermined just because two men or two women love each other.
Do you have a relative or friend who is homosexual?
6 August 2001
Updated 22 December 2009
NOTE: While some might object, I use the term gay to include lesbians.
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