Saturday, June 25, 2011

Equality is delicious! And it has implications.

So, originally I was going to write a post about the commuter rail here, but then truly awesome things happened in Albany. New York legalized same-sex marriage.

This development is totally, totally, awesome. 

New Yorkers have been celebrating, myself included. Though I practically live in Chicago now, I'm really happy for my home state. I'm also happy because I can get married in my home state now to whoever I want.

So, I celebrate. But let's not forget that this measure has several important implications, among which:

a) Same-sex marriage is not yet a reality in forty-five states. Nor is protection against discrimination towards LGBTQ individuals at work and school in many of those. There's still a long way to go.

b) Law does not mean equality. Thousands of LGBTQ New Yorkers still face significant problems as a result of their sexuality, particularly those in parts of Upstate New York and New York City: abuse, being disowned, discrimination, even rape.

c) People need to be careful in their rhetoric. I've already heard one person call it "a victory of the LGBTQ community over oppressive religious mores."

So that's as if LGBTQ people aren't religious?

Guess what. Some of us are.

Yes, there's a religious exemption, which is to be expected. I'm not opposed to it - a) it got us MARRIAGE RIGHTS by securing the support of a senator or two and b) ideas on marriage across faiths are quite diverse already - some religions don't even allow divorce in any circumstances (it is essentially impossible to divorce someone in several large branches of Christianity), so to ask to force them to give same-sex marriage rights is simply beyond the pale. Even to say "eventually" is beyond the pale - it imposes a particular idea of progress onto this trend. If we are free to marry, the opponents must be free to oppose that right, as long as they do not infringe on it.

But secondly, as a Jewish man, I do not see a contradiction between my faith and my right to marry who I want to. Some more traditional interpretations of Jewish law say that I shouldn't. Some newer traditions say that I can. To interpret religion as the ultimate blocking point is as blind-sided and as discriminatory as calling gay men "those blasted faggots." It's a total demonization.

As is the "victory over the Republican establishment"-not all Republicans are opposed, and let's remember that 29% of the LGBTQ community voted for McCain in 2008. In their quest to oppose intolerance, many liberals (of which I am not one) - and many LGBTQ liberals - fall into their own trap of intolerance. I've often felt, as a non-secular, non-liberal man, that I've been excluded to a certain extent from the gay rights movement. Which I wasn't. But there was the illusion of exclusion.

Tolerance goes both ways. I think it will be best if we remember this fact.

Side note:

My friend Hannah is going to be doing a Teach for America stint in Detroit starting this September, and her training has already commenced. She's started a blog, Teaching in the D, and you should read it - she's an awesome writer and a great person.


  1. I agree! The leader of the GSA at my school always reprimanded us if we used the words "conservative" or "Republican" or "religious" as terms that were interchangeable with "anti-gay."

  2. Thanks for the shoutout! You're so sweet!

    I find it interesting that you don't identify as liberal. I know a fair number of activists who choose "liberal" or "progressive", no matter how they vote.

  3. Wait, you're not a liberal? How are you defining liberal?

    Also, this is a question I have been wondering: is it possible to reconcile modern orthodoxy with GLBT rights? I feel like you can't quite gain complete victory in GLBT unless everybody has the freedom of being, including those whose religions explicitly say "no".

  4. I don't really identify with a political label. My opinions tend to fall into the center. In a sense, I could be labeled liberal with different definitions on the social and economic scales, but I'm not particularly anything.

    The idea of what complete victory has some debate, but even with the freedom of being some work on Modern Orthodox-LGBTQ reconciliation has been done - a lot of it is with textual reinterpretation and discussion. There are some Modern Orthodox community organizations.

    I generally tend to identify as Conservative or a conservative Reconstructionist-both movements have had significant discussion and theological work on LGBTQ rights, and Reconstructionists are particularly active in this. It's been a huge debate in the Conservative movement.

  5. To add to my previous comment: actually, the biggest donors to the gay marriage initiatives in New York were Republicans. They were even (gasp!) Tea Partiers.