It was a slow Friday morning at the front desk of the museum where I work, so I was browsing the news.
That’s when I saw it. The 5–4 Supreme Court decision recognizing marriage equality across the nation. I was flooded with unexpected emotion — and taken aback by an unfamiliar sense of American pride. Could it really be true? As a gay person, was I no longer a second-class citizen?
…I was raised by secular Jewish parents who left the anti-Semitic former Soviet Union, a place which today, as the Russian Federation, continues to discriminate against minorities, still including Jews, but now especially queer-identified people. Extreme violence toward queer people in Russia seems to be the cultural norm. I’ve never visited where my parents grew up, and can’t say a trip is in the works — at least in the near future, because of the realities of Putin’s Russia.
And in that sense, I am happy to live in America. Happy to be privileged, happy that I can one day marry and have that union recognized. So as a white, cisgender gay American — (the fight does not end at marriage equality! We need to advocate now, harder than ever, for our trans family, especially trans people of color, who are being killed at alarmingly high rates) — I have been upgraded to the status of first-class citizen.
In the secular world.
Although I identify as mostly secular, my Jewishness is not entirely relegated to my ethnicity. As I enter the beautiful Orthodox synagogue the museum is housed in, and give historical tours to the public — I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, spirituality, and lamentation. I mourn that I cannot one day marry in this space that means so much to me, a space that reinvigorates my sense of Jewish identity, a space that still upholds Orthodox tradition. A space that will not perform gay marriages.