A Faith Voice That Speaks For Me
This post comes from Joanna Blotner, Religion and Faith Program Coordinator at the Human Rights Campaign. She is a former Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.
Working in DC, I'm privileged by the sense of agency I have in effectuating public policy. If I'm passionate about an issue, I can hop on the metro and visit my legislators' offices to voice my opinion. I often marvel at the passionate commitment of so many Americans throughout our country, who, despite their distance from the Capitol, demonstrate creativity and zeal in fighting for the issues they prioritize.
As the fight for marriage equality reaches its apex in New York State, I'm learning what it's like to be a long distance advocate and my feelings are nuanced. On the one hand, I'm frustrated by my lack of access to these legislators. While I don't live in New York, I care deeply about all New Yorkers' freedom to marry the person they love. As an employee of the Human Rights Campaign, I've dedicated my career to fighting for equal rights for LGBT Americans, and marriage equality is a civil right that is long overdue. Passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York, the third most populous state in the nation, and the largest state seriously considering this legislation, would signal to the rest of the country that all loving couples deserve the benefits and protections of the state regardless of the partners' genders.
Along with my frustration, however, I'm also invigorated by the fervent advocacy of New Yorkers from all over the state -LGBT and allies - who are regularly traveling to Albany, participating in phone banks, calling and writing their legislators, and finding myriad ways through social media to communicate their support for marriage equality. In particular, I'm inspired by those religious groups and leaders who are claiming their faith and putting it into action in support of basic fairness for the LGBT community. Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) has been an outspoken religious group in favor of marriage equality, and they represent my reading of the Bible, that individuals are created b'tselem Elohim - in the image of God - and are deserving of equality.
Advocacy organizations like RJV remind all of us that no one group has a monopoly on faith and when it comes to public policy, the faith voice is not monolithic. Despite a barrage of images in the news of Catholic priests and Orthodox rabbis crusading against same-sex marriage, there are just as many New York faith leaders, if not more, who favor marriage equality (having done a clergy phone bank for the campaign just this past weekend, I can attest that the number of supportive religious leaders from across the religious spectrum is extensive, and exhausting!).
While I'm proud of faith groups like RJV who highlight progressive social values and serve as a proxy for me and other Reform Jews who can't make it to Albany, it is critical to underscore that marriage equality in New York or anywhere does not infringe upon religious liberty or religious marriage. This has always been and remains an issue of equal protection under the law. I read about one sign, carried by a New York rabbi that read, "It's not about the Chupah or the Altar, it is about Civil Rights at City Hall." She could not have said it better.
We're so close to reversing discrimination in the Empire State and I can think of no more sacred charge to our legislators than to demand justice and equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters. You can continue to make your voice heard by visiting the RJV action center or HRC's New Yorkers For Marriage Equality site.
Photo courtesy of marriageequality at deviantART