Bet Shalom Supports Marriage Equality: Join Them, This Sunday

This is a guest post by Ethan Roberts, J.D., a lay leader with Bet Shalom Congregation, and the Director of the Twin Cities Jewish Community Government Affairs Program at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. A 2003 graduate of Stanford Law School, Ethan majored in History and Religious Studies at Macalester College. Ethan lives in Plymouth with his wife, Naomi Dean, and their children Noah (6) and Elsie (2).

Join Bet Shalom Congregation, the JCRC and JCA for a Forum on How Bet Shalom is joining the Interfaith and Bipartisan Campaign to Defeat the Anti-Family Minnesota Marriage Amendment!

This Sunday, from 2:00 -4:00 pm, Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka will be holding an informative and engaging forum on the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment and how Bet Shalom is joining the interfaith and bipartisan campaign to defeat it this November.
Bet Shalom recently joined the three other Twin Cities-based Reform congregations in formally opposing the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment and committing itself, as part of the broad-based coalition of Minnesotans United for All Families to actively campaign against its passage in the November 2012 referendum. Bet Shalom’s opposition to laws like the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which would constitutionally ban same-sex marriages (marriage equality), is well-grounded within both the Reform Movement, Jewish American popular opinion, and our strong American tradition of the separation of church and state, which has well served Jewish Americans over the centuries.
For two decades, the Reform Movement has called upon our congregations and rabbis to be leaders in the fight against laws which seek to limit the right to marry and champions for full civil marriage rights for same-gender couples.
For example, in March 1996 the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) resolved at their 107th Annual Convention to “support the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage [and] oppose governmental efforts to ban gay and lesbian marriage.” Similarly, in June 2004, at their 115th Annual Convention, a resolution was approved to “call upon CCAR members to play a leadership role on the federal, state and local levels on this issue, and to join coalitions and other efforts in local communities.” Accordingly, the strong positions taken by Bet Shalom, Mount Zion Temple, Shir Tikvah, and Temple Israel in opposing the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment are strongly supported by our national leadership.
Moving beyond the Reform Movement, however, we know that there is also consensus within the broader Jewish American community in favor of marriage equality and in opposition to governmental efforts to restrict the right to marry.
Perhaps, the best evidence of this is a 2010 Pew Research Center Poll, which found that 76% of Jewish Americans support same-sex marriages and only 18% were opposed. This is by far the highest support for marriage equality of any religious group surveyed and stands in contrast to the only 31% of all Protestants and 46% of all Catholics who voiced support for same-sex marriages in the Pew Poll.
Here in Minnesota, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), and Jewish Community Action (JCA) are both working to defeat the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment and are co-sponsoring this Sunday’s forum at Bet Shalom. In addition, the Minnesota Rabbinical Association, “which is made up of 35 rabbis and 15 synagogues, representing the Jewish population of the State of Minnesota,” just recently voted unanimously to oppose the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment. We should also be proud that Jewish Minnesotans such as Leah Solo, from the JCRC board and the Human Rights Campaign, Ann Kaner-Roth ,from Project 515, and Adele Brown, from JCA, are among the most prominent leaders in the Minnesotans United for All Families Campaign. And who could forget the moving words of state Representative and JCRC board member Steve Simon, whose speech against the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment (video below, in case you haven’t seen it yet) has already been viewed by over half a million people?
Finally, as a religious minority, who have historically been well served by both the separation of church and state, as well as the constitutional protections which prevent tyranny by the majority, Jewish Americans find additional reason to oppose the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment and other laws which are without a secular legislative purpose and has the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion. See Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971). While synagogues and churches should retain their constitutional right to decide for themselves which unions they want to sanctify, this in no way provides a rational basis for the government to deny legal, civil recognition to same-sex couples. See Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F.Supp.2d 921 (N.D. Cal 2010) (Relying on Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), which famously held that “[m]arriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” in striking down California’s anti-marriage equality constitutional amendment. This decision is currently on appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and will likely ultimately be settled by the United States Supreme Court).
Moreover, as Jews whose synagogues are increasingly marrying same-sex couples under the chuppah in accordance with our faith, it is our right not to have the weddings that we perform dismissed by the government for the sole reason that they may conflict with the doctrine of the majority faith.
It is our hope that many of you will be able to join us for Bet Shalom’s forum on the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment where we will hear from Bet Shalom’s Rabbi David Locketz, and members of our congregation about the importance of marriage equality for their families, their children, our faith, and our country. Most importantly, after an opportunity to ask questions and voice your opinion, we will provide you with helpful practical information to enable you to help defeat the anti-family Minnesota Marriage Amendment this November.