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This was a day God made…
Last Shabbat, my cousin Robin and her husband Steve celebrated the wedding of their third daughter, Sara. It was a beautiful event, filled with love, filled with joy, filled with happiness and filled with holiness. Their family sure knows how to throw an event – at a beautiful location with a view of the whole Seattle area, with happy music, stunning floral arrangements, lots of friends and family.
But two pieces of this stand out for me. First, I have been so proud of Robin and Steve (and the rest of their family), because they were at the forefront of the campaign in Washington to legalize same sex marriage—indeed they were part of the public face of the media campaign, explaining how they wanted all of their children to be able to express their love for their partner the same way. They have had many years of happy marriage, and had seen their two older daughters married, and wanted their youngest to also share in the holy partnership they have been blessed with. Indeed, Steve that night alluded to the way they knew where the wedding would be, who the caterer and florist and music would be, but until Election Day, they didn’t know if it would be a legal wedding or not, but thanks to 1.6 million Washington voters, Sara and her beloved Melanie knew their marriage would not only be sanctified in a Jewish ceremony but legally recognized. It was a joyous event.
The Reform Movement has been a long time leader in the efforts to legalize same sex marriage, having passed their last resolution in 1997. The resolution noted “that we are but one family, equal before God.” It further noted that “[l]egal recognition of monogamous domestic gay and lesbian relationships and congregational honoring of these couples will together provide these men and women and their families with dignity and self esteem.”
I remember one High Holy Days, around 2000, when my rabbi, Rabbi Stacy Friedman, gave a sermon about how she had come to the decision to officiate at same sex ceremonies, even before it was legal in California, how she had realized how the love of two people was sacred, and that when people wanted to sanctify their love, it was the least she could do to facilitate that. Some congregants were upset, but many of us cheered, because it represented a way for our own family members to join in the sanctity of marriage, to let their relationships be as holy as our own.
The Conservative Movement took longer to support same sex marriage, and it was a heated discussion that finally passed their committee in 2006. Just last year, they developed wedding ceremonies that modified the sheva berakhot, the seven blessings, for same sex couples. The Reform Movement had taken a shorter route to doing so much earlier. The sheva berakhot are essential to the ceremony, because, as we know, words create reality, and blessings bestow spiritual bounty on any couple. But what was most interesting in the Conservative Movement’s response was an acknowledgment that Jewish weddings, kiddushin, are inherently unequal, and are about acquisition, and a wedding between two people of the same sex is inherently equal.
When I studied lifecycle leadership, my teacher explained that because of the inherent inequality of a traditional Jewish wedding, his are proudly “not kosher”—a position I have embraced as well. And now that we have a model for inherently equal ceremonies, I plan to use them.
And in the meantime, I pray for Sara and Melanie to have a long, happy marriage, filled with love, children, family and laughter.