Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Efrex, the Orthodox Jewish Straight Theatre Queen, has posted such marvelous observations about gay marriage, I decided to cut and paste an exerpt from his posting right here, for your convenience:

Looking at the amendments made to the US Constitution over the years (I'm ashamed to admit just how little I've looked at this document in my life), I'm struck by just how ludicrous President Bush's proposed amendment is. The US Constitution has been amended 17 times in the 200 years since its original publication. Of those amendments:

2 deal with Prohibition (enacting and repealing it)

1 deals with the clean-up of the aftermath of the Civil War

7 deal with purely procedural issues (elections and successions)

5 expand rights and give protections to different groups

1 grants states limited immunity from lawsuits

and one gives the federal government a power that it didn't have before (Number 16, allowing Congress to levy a national income tax).

Now, apparently, we need a second such amendment, giving the Federal government the right to tell the states what they can consider "marriage." Apparently, marriage, despite being an essential social stabilizing force, is such a fragile one that making it more inclusive to a minority population will completely ruin it.

Three-plus years ago, I received the most wonderful gift that I could ever ask for. Someone agreed to join my life permanently and accept the responsibilities of sharing my future existance, in exchange for my doing the same for her. My family loves me because that's part of their responsibility. My wife chose to love me and make my struggles and despairs a part of her life, and still thinks she got a good deal. To think that anything anyone else does will somehow diminish the staggering magnitude of that reduces the divine to a matter of competition.

Yes, I am an Orthodox Jew. Yes, I believe in the divinity of the bible, and yes, I've read Leviticus. I have many beliefs which are not reflected in American society, and Bush's amendment isn't based on the morality of homosexuality anyhow (I'd have much more respect for him if it were... I might disagree, but at least there would be some consistency in his arguments). Marriage might well need defending, but it needs it from those who break it, not those trying to join it.

You go, Efrex.

I've been pretty amazed, actually, at the number of Orthodox Jews who are spending energy and time being actively upset about the new circumstances in California and Massachusetts allowing gay marriage. First of all, I'd think that Orthodox Jews would be the first people to say that the government should not get involved in family life. If the government can define marriage for us, then next thing you'll know, they'll define religion. And they'll take away our right to abortion when the mother's life is in danger. And they'll decide that kosher slaughter practices are evil, and outlaw them. And all sorts of other bad things for the Jews. I would have thought that Orthodox Jews would be very happy to keep the government out of our lives as much as possible (Oh, God, I sound just like a Republican! Morpheus, what's happening to me?)

Second, given that these laws affect civil marriage, and are not an attempt to force Jews to allow gay marriage within our communities (or to force Christians to allow gay marriage within the Church), then I can think of only three reasons that so many religious Jews are upset:

1. Being devoted American citizens, they are worried that America is going the way of Sodom and Gemorrah, which, according to Jewish legend, were destroyed in part because they gave homosexuality a free reign. Perhaps there's a worry that America is "going to pot." Well, my answer to that is: Make aliyah. Come live in the Jewish state, where there is no separation between church and state and where our traditions about Sodom and Gemorrah, and other things, actually have an influence on what goes on. Maybe not the way you'd always like, or to the extent you'd like, or to the un-extent you'd like, but at least here in Israel you can stake some sort of claim on religious grounds. Doing that in America is like trying to solve a problem like Maria.

2. Being traditional and somewhat isolationist, they are worried that if everyone else in America says that homosexual marriage is OK, then pretty soon gay people will demand all sort of recognition and marriage and stuff within Torah Judaism. This is pretty much the same argument that was used against feminism for decades, and to a certain extent the argument is true: The more tolerant that American society becomes toward homosexuality, the more tolerant American Jews will expect their rabbis and religious institutions to be. It is true that in all likelihood, eventually there are going to be gays and lesbians demanding that they be allowed to hold a chuppah in an Orthodox shule, similar to the calls from feminist circles that Orthodoxy allow women to become rabbis.

I have two arguments against this:

a. This trend is already happening, even without a Constitutional amendment protecting heterosexual marriage. Perhaps it hasn't happened in a shule, but I can tell you that one time that I interviewed Sandi Dubowski for an article, he had just come back from the wedding of two lesbians who had grown up frum, and whose Orthodox relatives, including some rabbis, attended the ceremony. There are already Orthodox gay couples having/adopting children and attempting to integrate into Orthodox neighborhoods. So, whatever evil in America has influenced Orthodox young people to take the step of coming out of the closet, the evil is already there, and the law in Massachusetts will neither stop nor hasten the snowball that is already rolling.

b. OK, so the fear is that Orthodoxy will have to grapple with homosexuality on a heightened level, much as it has been grappling with feminism. Now, the analogy to feminism only goes so far, because few of the Jewish laws that define women's roles in Jewish life are written in black and white in the Torah itself. The conflict between Orthodoxy and homosexuality is extremely difficult because , well, it's all written out in Leviticus. But . . . and I say "BUT"!!! . . . since when does Judaism shy away from difficult questions? Since when have we tried to tell other Americans what they can or cannot do, because we are so afraid that it might, maybe, somehow make us look ourselves in the mirror and ask some tough questions? Since when do we tell people, who are living together anyway and raising children together anyway, that they can't have a piece of paper allowing them to share health insurance and a tax return, simply because we are nervous about who might try to influence our community? Or, perhaps more frightening, because we are nervous that our children might suddenly tell us the truth about themselves?

3. Being good Jews, they want to catalyze American's dedication to the seven Noahide laws, one of which governs illicit sexual activity. This, actually, is the one reason I respect, because it fits into Judaism's own traditions about the holiness of non-Jews, and the idea that we Jews have a responsibility to be a light unto the nations.

However, until I see those same Jews who get all flustered and angry about gay marriage ALSO get flustered about the importance of teaching non-Jews to, say, not commit adultery and not to engage in pagan practices such as, say, Wicca, well then . . . I have to assume that this isn't about being a light unto the nations. It is just homophobia.

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