Today we’re all gay…
Yes, yes, we’re still in the afterglow. The dinosaurs of Albany, more known for corruption and dysfunction, have stunned and delighted us by making same-sex marriage legal in the Empire State.
The 33-to-29 victory in the State Senate came from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s determination to give gays civil rights – pulled off with strict Democrat party discipline and inducements by mega-wealthy Republican supporters to get a few Republicans to break rank and vote for gay marriage.
The road to gay marriage was rocky – but no rockier than Conservative Judaism’s fraught path in finally deciding to allow same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The split vote in Albany was similar to the split in Conservative Judaism’s law committee. In two opposing responses to Jewish law before the law committee, 13 to 12 voted in favor of the response allowing gay commitment ceremonies (along with gay rabbis and cantors) and 13 to 12 voted for an opposing response (one rabbi voted both ways). Part of the rabbinic reasoning favoring gay marriage was that Judaism does not advocate celibacy over loving relations.
When a sampling of Conservative Jews was polled back in 2007, a majority, like the recent poll of Americans, favored letting gays publicly avow their love. The more than 5,000 Conservative Jews who responded were fine on gay marriage and gay clergy but – traditional in some respects – a majority opposed rabbis performing marriage ceremonies uniting a Jew (straight or gay) with a non-Jew. So… gates open for Jewish gays and lesbians to be joined by a rabbi (gay or straight) in the interest of family values.
As for the Albanyians – not even the dysfunctional state legislature can pass a law coming down firmly on both sides so thank you Governor Cuomo for pushing this civil rights issue into law. But in a move that Conservative rabbis might appreciate, a few pivotal paragraphs in the bill helped swing the vote by protecting religious institutions from law suits and government penalties if they refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Reads like a page from the Conservative law committee decision.
Happy ending in New York: now Conservative Judaism’s Conservative rabbis who feel comfortable with gay commitment can perform both the religious ceremony and, with the powers invested in them by the State of New York, legally unite gay and lesbian couples.