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Speaking Out for Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality

Religious leaders must speak out on the moral issues of our day. The prophets did it. The sages did it. Rabbis throughout their time did it. Earlier this month I did too.

I lent my voice, and my understanding of the evolving Jewish tradition, to two efforts occurring in the State of California regarding Marriage Equality. In addition to supporting an interfaith amicus brief asking the California Supreme Court to decide that it is a violation of the California Constitution to deny same sex couples access to civil marriage, I wrote a letter to The Honorable Mark Leno (13th Assembly District), which said the following:

Along with other religious and spiritual leaders, I join with California Faith for Equality in writing to you in strong support of the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act” (AB43). I commend the protection this legislation provides for religious freedom while ensuring equal treatment under the law for same-sex couples.

I affirm the right to freedom of conscience and recognize that the state may not require religious groups to officiate at, nor bless, same-sex marriages. By the same token, I oppose appeals to sacred texts and religious traditions for the purpose of denying legal and social equality to same-sex couples. The state may not use the religious convictions of one faith for civil law that affects people of all faiths and people without religious affiliation. Furthermore, clergy should not be placed in the position of treating some couples they marry differently than others.

I thank you for setting a standard of leadership and integrity by exercising your legal right and your moral responsibility to pass legislation to end marriage discrimination in California. The right to love and to form a family through marriage is a fundamental human right, and was so recognized by the California Supreme Court in 1948. California public opinion has been moving with remarkable speed to support fair and equal treatment for same-sex couples. History is clearly on the side of full civil rights for all.

I commend your demonstrated respect for our constitution, for the separation of church and state, and for loving, law-abiding families. I join with you in standing on the right side of history, and in standing on the side of love.

History, and a compassionate honest interpretation of Jewish tradition, shows that this is the right path, the moral path, for us to support. I was honored to be able to raise my voice in support.

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