As the debate over defining marriage heats up nationwide, I am proud to see representatives of many faiths speaking up against the inherent discrimination that they (and I) see in President Bush's proposed Federal Marriage Amendment.
Civil and religious marriage differ. Even now, the state will remarry divorced people, while some faiths won't. Some faiths sanctify gay and lesbian marriages now, though the state doesn't. Some faiths will doubtless continue not to sanctify gay and lesbian marriages even when the state (God willing) does. That's as it should be. Church and state are separate here, and we should not be basing our laws on anyone's interpretation of Leviticus.
To deny lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans the right to civil marriage is discrimination; it is anti-marriage; and it is anti-family. I've heard it said that allowing gay marriage will somehow diminish marriage as an institution, but I simply cannot understand the argument. I find my marriage strengthened every time a gay or lesbian couple weds. I am inspired by their courage and commitment.
I hold this belief strongly as an individual. But can I also hold it as a Jew? Absolutely. Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote a marvelous column on this subject entitled The Emerging Torah of Same-Sex Marriage. (He also issued a call to stop the FMA.) Institutional Jewish support for GLBT marriage is nothing new; the official governing body of Reform Judaism voted to support civil marriage for gays and lesbians, and to develop Jewish GLBT wedding ceremonies back in 1997.
Unsurprisingly, the UUA supports the freedom of GLBT folks to marry, too. And the Episcopal Church urges restraint on the marriage amendment. God bless these religious institutions for speaking out on this issue. Too often fundamentalists co-opt the label "person of faith," and liberal religious voices go unheard. I applaud the rabbis, priests, and ministers (and their organizations and associations) who are showing the courage of their convictions in arguing against the FMA.
Of course there are denominations within Judaism which do not, and may never, sanctify gay and lesbian unions. The same goes for branches of Christianity, and doubtless other faiths as well. That's their prerogative. But it is not the prerogative of the federal government to enshrine discrimination in our Constitution. Civil marriage should be available to all, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. LGBT marriage is not a threat to the sanctity, the institution, or the ideal of marriage; the FMA is.
Edited to add: And here's a great link collecting various religions supporting equal marriage rights. Just for good measure.