I was dismayed at your decision to no longer publish announcements of gay engagements or unions.
I understand your reluctance to offend the sensitivities of an important segment of our Jewish community. However, as the prime sponsor of the passed Civil Union law and then the Freedom of Religion and Marriage Equality Act which did not get the required votes to pass the Senate, and as an affiliated Jewish woman, I think I can speak on this issue with some experience. I met with many groups of folks as these laws and bills developed. I certainly spent a great deal of time with representatives of our Orthodox community, both in Trenton and in my office. They very respectfully made me aware of their own sensitivities. We had an open exchange on this issue. I, and my colleagues in the legislature, were very sensitive ourselves, which is why the Marriage Equality act makes it clear that no religious leader is called upon to perform such ceremonies if they chose to not do so. The religious freedom protections are many and clearly stated in the bill.
So why should the Rabbi leading the congregation to which I belong be prevented from legally sanctioning same gender marriages if he feels they are right and fit into our Jewish values and commitment to building family? Why should the Jewish Standard decide if my gay Jewish cousin wants to publicly announce his union to his partner, that the rest of our community cannot celebrate and acknowledge such public commitments if we believe in them? Any religious group in our country is entitled to practice their beliefs and to not be compelled to do anything they find in contradiction within their houses of worship.
Legislatively, I know we respected our differences. Personally, I know I respect the differences within my own Jewish community. But it is sad and hurtful when those differences cause pain and isolation to other members of our community. I respect the Jewish Standard’s right to print what you chose on your editorial pages, but I disagree with that decision! I hope you will listen to other Jewish leaders, Rabbis and teachers who also feel that your decision is wrong. It causes the kind of isolation and shame which has led to the high rate of suicide among gay youth, and most recently might have contributed to the tragic death of a talented and promising young Bergen County man, Tyler Clementi.
I know that most of our Orthodox Rabbis and some of our political leaders believe that same sex unions are against G-d’s law. But I also know that most of our religious and political leadership believe that we are born into our sexual identity and that love and commitment to another human being should be cherished, not isolated and not relegated to a shameful act which cannot be printed on the simcha pages of our publications. Please re-think your decision.
Sincerely Loretta Weinberg
Senator, District 37 Chair,
Health, Human Services & Senior Services Committee