On November 4, 2008, most were focused on the monumental election of our nation’s first President of color, Barack Obama. Obama’s ascension to America’s highest office represented a transformative shift in culture and society that will change our country for generations to come.
As I danced in the streets outside my apartment with strangers who set their politics aside to recognize the historic occasion, I quickly forgot about the number of ballot measures weighing in on the rights of some American citizens to marry whom they please.
Last Tuesday, California joined Florida and Arizona in passing ballot measures that declared same-sex marriage unconstitutional in the states’ constitutions.
Much of the media glare focused on the mobilization of evangelical Christian and Mormon organizations who worked to pass the ban. And the projectmarriage.com website includes a testimonial from an Orthodox Rabbi in favor of Proposition 8. But not all religious leaders joined the campaign to pass Prop 8. A number of rabbis and lay leaders leveraged their positions to advocate for the rights of gay and lesbian couples.
Jewish organizations and individuals alike formed a cohesive movement in parts of California to oppose the ban and state clearly that the LGBT community deserves equal rights in the eyes of the law and society. While the ban eventually passed in California, the JTA reports that Jews in Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly (78%) against the ban.
Despite this defeat, I hope that the Jewish community continues to advocate for inclusiveness and equal rights both in the secular world and the Jewish community itself. We can take this moment to look inside the community at our policies, our attitudes and our actions to consider whether or not we welcome all as equal stakeholders in our community.
As the Big Tent Judaism coalition principles state, we must “Leave behind assumptions about what Jews ‘look like’, or how families are configured and welcome all.”
Once we reach that point, then I’ll really be dancing in the streets!