Amid protests and cheers, the New Jersey Senate voted down gay marriage last week, thereby all but dooming it in this state for the foreseeable future.
From the Jewish community, rabbis lined up outside the state legislature building on both sides of the debate. Gay marriage, some argued, would weaken the moral fiber of society because homosexual relations are an abomination according to the Torah. Nobody would be forced to perform ceremonies they felt uncomfortable with, rabbis in support of the bill argued back.
Such a divide and harsh opposition to the notion of equal marriage rights is disturbing at best and dangerously ignorant of history at worst. The Jewish community had long suffered at the hands of governments that sought to limit our rights. Not even 100 years ago in Germany, considered one of the most enlightened nations of the time, laws were passed that limited the rights of Jews to own property, conduct commerce, and, yes, marry.
This country struggled through the civil rights movements of the 20th century, when women fought for the right to vote, African Americans fought for equality, and Jews broke free of the ghetto-lifestyle of Europe.
Yes, the Torah forbids homosexual relations. It also forbids Jews to eat pork, drive on Shabbat, and mark one’s flesh with a tattoo. Do these things still happen? Yes. Does that mean they are universally approved of by Jewish leaders? No, but there are no calls to ban them under state law.
Just as we longed for equal rights under the law in Germany, Russia, Spain, and so many other nations, we should support the struggles of others for equal protection. Those who oppose gay marriage because of halacha have that right. What they do not have the right to do is impose that view on others who are not bound by Torah law.
Limiting the rights of “the other” is a slippery slope that has led in the past to such horrors as the Holocaust, the genocide in Darfur, and other atrocities.
Separation of church and state guarantees freedom of religion and, at times, freedom from religion. State law should be based on the principle of equality for all of its citizens, regardless of religious considerations. The religious should likewise be free to practice their faiths as they wish.
We should not become guilty of doing to others what has been done to us throughout the ages.