By Kevin Madigan / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pride Seder at the Rush Center in Atlanta on Friday, June 26, took on a new meaning in light of that day’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.
“We knew the decision could come today which might make the seder a little bit wonky,” Congregation Bet Haverim Rabbi Josh Lesser said in his opening remarks. The event started more than an hour late because many participants attended another celebration at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. “People are probably hungry,” he said. “We definitely want to do some of our seder but may not stick to all of it. (It will be) a little bit looser. It’s not scripted tonight.”
Bet Haverim holds the Pride Seder, inspired by the Passover seder, every year during June, LGBT Pride Month.
“We get to invoke our impressions on a day we’ve made history. It’s incredibly powerful,” Rabbi Lesser said.
Nechemyah Sullivan, who describes himself as a Jew of color, was excited by the turn of events. “I think this is awesome. The LGBT community has come of age,” he said. “There are so many benefits that come along with this decision. It’s an acknowledgment, a recognition of equality. I guess it’s testament to the fact that if you believe in something, you continue to work at it until it produces the result needed. With this Pride Seder we’re coming out of our own Egypt in terms of inequality and sexual discrimination. It’s very liberating.”
Sullivan said much more needs to be done with legislation for LGBT rights. “We need to ensure that this new law leads to accountability, and different states need to figure out how to provide marriage licenses and benefits. Those conversations have to come from social justice and organizations like SOJOURN and Human Rights Campaign. Our city councils also have to talk about how to become compliant with the law. Now we have some work to do on how to put all this into place.”
Rabbi Lesser agreed there is a long way to go. “Georgia is one of the states that has been fierce in its opposition to gay marriage,” he said in an interview. “We can still be fired for being gay and lesbian. This is one of three states which don’t have civil rights legislation. It’s shocking. It’s hard for Georgia to join the rest of the world. Some basic, fundamental human rights that people have in other states, we still don’t have.”
The Jewish community in Atlanta is not entirely supportive of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, Rabbi Lesser said. “We still want to be a good neighbor and still want to create a sense of Jewish community, so that means living with people who don’t support this legislation. I don’t want it to be hostile. There has been some (hostility) in the past, but I want us to respect our differences.”
After pouring champagne and mingling with the congregation, he added: “We get to celebrate before going back to thinking, strategizing, figuring out how to bring our prophetic voices into the public square, and how to be a force for racial justice and equity.”