Will the Supreme Court throw the bouquet on same-sex marriage

Will the Supreme Court throw the bouquet on same-sex marriage

By Dave Schechter / dschechter@atljewishtimes.com

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

M and P were partners for 31 years before they married. B and M were together 18 years before they wed. L and M waited nine years.

Because same-sex marriage is banned in Georgia, all three couples traveled out of state to jurisdictions where it is legal. Each later held a ceremony officiated by the rabbi of the congregation where they are longtime members.

(Full disclosure: I belong to that congregation and attended those ceremonies, outing myself as delighted by their happiness. The choice to use their initials rather than names was mine.)

June is the month most associated with weddings, and advocates of same-sex marriage hope that the Supreme Court of the United States will throw the bouquet. SCOTUS soon will issue its ruling on whether the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which deals with equal protection and due process under the law, requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize such marriages performed legally out of state.

If the high court rules against laws such as Georgia’s prohibition, “the press release from my office is going to be ‘The Supreme Court has spoken, and Georgia’s going to follow the law,’ ” Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens told the Atlanta Press Club.

Three of the nine justices deciding these issues — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan — are Jewish and are expected to vote in support of same-sex marriage.

Jews support same-sex marriage at significantly higher percentages than the nation at large, second only to Buddhists and equal to the religiously unaffiliated, according to “American Values Atlas,” released in April by the Public Religion Research Institute. Of 724 Jews surveyed (out of more than 40,500 interviews), 47 percent “strongly favor” same-sex marriage, 30 percent “favor,” and 9 percent each “oppose” and “strongly oppose.”

When my career began in the 1970s, the media paid little attention to issues affecting the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. In the 1980s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic brought into view other LGBT issues, including those now before SCOTUS.

The congregation my wife and I joined was founded by gay and lesbian Jews and welcomed heterosexuals. Our children grew up knowing same-sex couples, with and without children — and it was no big deal to them.

What is a big deal is that the absence of a legal right to marry and have that marriage recognized left same-sex couples without legal and economic benefits and protections that married heterosexuals take for granted.

Marriage is a status regulated by government, and across a nation so vast and with such great movement of its people, the law on same-sex marriage should be uniform from coast to coast. Congressional action perhaps might have been preferable, but now we wait on the Supreme Court.

From where I sit, this is not a religious issue. What makes a Jewish marriage Jewish is the degree to which Judaism plays a role in the conduct of that marriage, not the sex of the two people exchanging vows. Same-sex couples willing to make that commitment should not be denied that opportunity and responsibility based on religious text.

If two men or two women want to stand together beneath a chuppah before a rabbi and be legally bound in marriage, they should have that right — regardless of their home address. “By the power invested in me by the state …” intertwines a civil ceremony and a religious rite, with the latter providing support for the former.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

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