Last week I wrote to you objecting to the Obama Administration’s plans to compel institutions run by religious organizations to include birth control in the health care coverage for their employees. I said that I considered this a matter of freedom of religion and challenged the Obama Administration to “find another way” to accomplish the goal of providing birth control for all. I didn’t think I had that much clout but even before my email left the Temple computer system the Administration shifted its position and found that other way. Even if many bishops don’t agree I found the compromise quite reasonable.
This week I write to you about a situation where I feel my own right to freedom of religion is being violated. As a rabbi I have been given the authority by the State of New Jersey to solemnize marriages. The Reform Movement in Judaism along with a number of Protestant denominations endorses the right of same sex couples to marry. Our support for gay marriage is shaped by our religious beliefs, among them that all people are made in the image of God. I have officiated at such ceremonies in the past and would like to do so here in New Jersey. But, the state continues to consider such marriages invalid. As such, it is endorsing the views of some religious groups and their clergy and restricting the rights of others, including my own. This is wrong. Of course, the harm being done to thousands of gay couples in New Jersey by denying them the right to marry is far greater than any harm done to me. For gay couples this is not only about religious rights but equality before the law and in society. We cannot say that gay people have equal rights in our society until we recognize the equality of their relationships.
I applaud our State Legislature for voting to legalize same sex marriage. This action is long overdue. Unfortunately, our governor believes that the equality of gays and lesbians and my freedom of religion should be put up for a vote. I find this offensive.
I recognize that not everyone receiving this email agrees with me, just as you didn’t all agree with my last email! But, I feel it is my role as your rabbi to share with you where I stand on important issues and why and to spur discussion among us about them. I look forward to your responses!