Passover Amicus Brief for Gay Marriage

Last night, in the waning hours before Passover began I had this feeling of anxiety.

That’s a fairly common emotion for many Jews prior to a holiday that requires us to be completely rid of anything made of bread, anything that could be made into bread, anything with bread in it as well as anything that might conceivably be confused for bread or the products necessary to make bread (this last category particularly annoys me, but alas, for another post).

But I know our home is all set, so that wasn’t it.

Perhaps it was because the Passover ritual meal – the Seder – is a huge production with weighty decisions to make and execute regarding everything from the particulars of re-telling the Exodus from Egypt to the mass quantities of food being served. But, no. We’re attending other peoples’ Seders this year. So that wasn’t it.

Then I saw the tweet:

And I remembered, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments tomorrow in the case against DOMA and Prop 8. In the past few days a rash of politicians have conveniently announced their support for gay marriage just as public opinion polls make it clear that the majority of the country now favors the right of LGBT couples to enjoy the same rights as us straight folk. As the tweet makes clear, time is running short for public figures to position themselves on what feels like the inevitable side of history — who wants to be remembered as still being on the side of “separate but equal” until Brown v. Board of Ed?

It can take time for some people to stop swimming against the tide of rising freedom. The Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal for the Commonwealth of Virginia to outlaw interracial marriage in 1967. In 1983 more Americans still disapproved than approved of interracial marriage. Now 86% approve. A lot of people, over a lot of time, have changed their minds. Or at least they’ve come to understand that it is socially unacceptable to tell a phone surveyor from Gallup that you disapprove of interracial marriage. Either way, call it progress.

After all, Moses had to go to Pharaoh ten times to ask for his people’s freedom — and Pharaoh never really got behind the idea…with catastrophic consequences.

It is time for this country’s highest court to put itself on the right side of history.

Tonight we went to a family Seder hosted by one of the last members of our oldest generation. They are very traditional. At times I’ve bemoaned the fact that they continue to use an old Haggadah (the book used to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt) full of all Thee’s and Thou’s as well as the exclusively patriarchal language to refer to G-d. While I love going to this Seder, it is a large, warm, raucous family affair, I have to admit, that I find the liturgy less than inspiring. Then tonight, we came to the following passage:

haggadah pic

Suddenly, this text from 1958 (I looked on the cover page) about an alleged event thousands of years old, struck me with the full revolutionary power of its narrative of freedom. The idea that in every age some new freedom is won. That in every age we uncover “formerly unrecognized servitude, requiring new liberation to set man’s [inset irony for patriarchal language] soul free. In every age, the concept of freedom grows broader, widening the horizons for finer and nobler living.” We are still in the desert, struggling to realize the full freedom we can achieve.

1958 — only four years after Brown v. Board of Education, 9 years before Loving v. Virginia, 15 years before Frontiero v. Richardson. 55 years before Hollingsworth v. Perry.

So, while I think it’s been pretty clear where I stand for awhile, let it not be too late for me (and for as many of you as possible) to declare that a truly free society must grant equal freedoms to its GLBT citizens. The Supreme Court should make unconstitutional any law that prevents marriage between two men or two women. We should support legislation that recognizes and codifies those rights — even though equal rights for a minority should not need to be put up to majority vote.

That’s my Amicus Brief. Happy Passover.



Filed under Jewish Stuff

4 responses to “Passover Amicus Brief for Gay Marriage

  1. A very Happy Passover to you.
    And let’s not forget, 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and women only gained the right to vote nearly 100 years ago. Slowly, slowly our country moves toward fulfilling it’s promise that All People are Created Equal.


  2. I love this. Happy Passover.


  3. That’s an amazing passage. Thanks for that!


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