June is Hope Month


June is LGBT Pride Month in the United States. It couldn’t come at a better time.

Last week on Tuesday we got the bad news that the Supreme Court of California had ruled to uphold the legality of Proposition 8, the statewide referendum against same-sex marriage. I live in Massachusetts, one of the five states that has same-sex marriage, so I have lots of reasons to think it’s a good thing.

The ruling actually had the seeds of hope in it. It said that people who got married between the California Supreme Court court case that declared same-sex marriage legal, and the passage of Prop 8, were still married. Why? Because Prop 8 is a change in the law. Unless someone introduces a specific, discriminatory clause into the constitution, civil marriage is not limited to opposite sex couples.

Same-sex marriage is part of a larger change in how we think about marriage in general. This is very familiar to me as a Jew. In Jewish law, a Jewish man gives a contract to a Jewish woman to pledge financial support. The set of assumptions in the now-traditional contract are not ones we share. At the very least, we assume that both the bride and groom can read and write! The traditional contract records the groom’s formal words and the bride’s silent agreement, without either of their signatures. Witnesses sign the document.

That doesn’t even get into Jews marrying non-Jews or women initiating the contract or people of the same sex creating a marriage.

I think as we move forward some people will continue to choose the most traditional Jewish marriage contracts that conform with our current halachah and others are going to create new contracts and new models. In a really open society, people can choose tradition and they can choose innovation, and they can make new traditions.

Full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is going to transform life for more than just the 10% or so of people who identify as LGBT. Because May was American-Jewish Heritage Month, and when I found that out I was stoked — because I didn’t know that every May since 2006 had been American-Jewish Heritage Month.

But it’s NEVER been LGBT Pride Month before, and the president of the United States has never urged us forward with, “I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.” This isn’t even including the biggest piece of news, which is President Obama’s pledges in the body of the proclamation of measures “ensuring adoption rights, and ending the existing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in a way that strengthens our Armed Forces and our national security.” I am reciting the blessing on hearing good news.

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