At the Capitol, Following in the Footsteps of Heschel

This is a guest post by Rabbi Jared H. Saks, Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. [Editors’ update Sunday morning: The vote referenced below took place on Saturday evening, after this post was written. See a report on the vote at the Star Tribune]

The moral of the Exodus is:  Protect the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, for you were a stranger in Egypt yourself. These are the Torah’s most vulnerable citizens. The Torah’s message to protect those most vulnerable demands that today, we have to stand up for those who are at the greatest risk.
I have spent the better part of the past three days at the Minnesota Capitol working to block a marriage amendment from appearing on the 2012 ballot. It has already passed the Senate and if it passes the House, there is no way to keep it off the 2012 ballot. The proposed amendment seeks to limit marriage in Minnesota solely to one man and one woman. Minnesota law already prevents same-sex couples from marrying, so the proposed amendment would enshrine second-class citizenship in the Minnesota Constitution, the only time the Constitution would ever seek to limit the rights of a group, rather than extending them.
While at the Capitol yesterday, I found myself next to a woman named Mary. As she was standing beside me with her gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, I was busy chanting. Just vote no, love wins! and Straight, gay, black, white; marriage is a civil right! and What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want them? Now!
At one point, Mary and I locked eyes. She smiled. I smiled. It was almost one of those love-at-first-sight moments. When I calmly told her that we would out-number, out-chant, and out-vote her, Mary smiled and said, “I like you.” I asked her if she liked me, why she would chose to make me second-class citizen?
That’s where the love affair ended.

Kirk, Vegas, and Me.

Torah affirms the worth of every human being, lauds the Divine image in each of us, and advises us that how well we treat one another is a good evaluation of our relationship with God.
It does this more often and more strongly than it ever condemns intercourse between two men. (In fact, Torah doesn’t even know about the loving relationship between two people of the same sex; it only knows about sex as a tool of idolatry and of warfare, not as an act of love between two consenting adults.)
On Thursday, pro-equality protestors outnumbered the other side 4-to-1 easily. During the two hours that I was there Friday, I saw one Catholic priest and three of his parishioners. We can win this fight. We will be at the Capitol whenever the House is in session between now and midnight on Monday, when session ends.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us that the opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference.
Please show up. No one is there instead of you. We need YOU.
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