Thursday, July 14, 2011


At Congregation B’nai Jeshurun tonight, a splendid Celebration of Marriage Equality in New York State. BJ's Panin el Panin social justice group decided to make striving for full equality for LGBT people one of its causes twenty years ago (1991 was also the first same-sex blessing at BJ), and for the last five years a dedicated group (called the BJ Marriage Equality Hevra) has contributed to interfaith and political organizing on the marriage issue. Today "victory for all loving couples" was celebrated with a kind of wedding. It was put together so well, so thoughtfully.

From under a huppah, several sets of people introduced and read the "Seven Blessings of Marriage Equality," put together by the rabbis. Read them with me! The first was introduced by an interfaith couple (one of the two B'nai Jeshurun shares with Holy Apostles, as it happens).The second was prefaced by a man who as a teenager was witness to the earliest blessings of gay unions in 1971 in a church in Manhattan, but at that stage could never have dreamed he'd see it at a synagogue. He invoked the memory of many who didn't live to see this day. The next was introduced by a recently wed straight couple, who read out a statement as they’d read it out at their own nuptials a few weeks before the marriage equality vote, lamenting the way marriage had been made a political issue and a way of excluding people and committing themselves to making it available for all loving couples. Next, a Hevra member, straight mother of three with a van, said she and her husband had been involved in this struggle although they “had no horse in the race”: except that they do, two horses, in fact — their commitment to social justice, and their commitment to their faith. Fifth came the other BJ-CHA interfaith couple, who described the ways they’d had to sideline themselves in discussions of marriage before, but when they had availed themselves of legal marriage in Connecticut found to their delight that it seemed entirely normal. A policeman even tore up a parking ticket when they told him they'd just gotten married. The next was introduced by an older lesbian couple who’ve been dreaming of marriage for a long time, and while looking forward to finally tying the knot, reminded us how many other injustices endure. The several co-chairs of the marriage equality Hevra read the last.

Then one of the rabbis called up the woman who had challenged BJ to face this issue twenty years ago to crush a glass. It's reminder of the destruction of the temple, she reminded us, of all that is broken in this world and also of the hope of making it whole. And then there was dancing!

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