The Happy Tears of a Jaded Activist for LGBTQ Equality

June 26, 2015Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

I confess to being a bit jaded after 30+ years as a public policy activist (40+ years if you want to count my high school and college activism during the early era of the fight for Soviet Jewry).

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that you "win some, lose some." When we win, victory can be fleeting and there will be others who will try to chip away at our success – think reproductive rights and health care reform. When we lose, there will always be future opportunities for progress and we need to take a long term approach – think about the ongoing fight against poverty and environmental standards. There have been many victories along the way and we are surely better off than in the past, even though there will always be more work to be done.

But today, I simply cannot contain my emotion. The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling this morning confirming a constitutional right to same sex marriage is the latest and most significant expansion of civil rights that I have witnessed in my lifetime. I was a child when the civil rights and voting rights acts were passed and when Loving v. Virginia declared state bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional. So this ruling reflects my generation’s victory, and it is sweet indeed.

To be sure, the battle for LGBTQ rights has had a long trajectory. Women of Reform Judaism, for which i serve as executive director, takes great pride in having been among the first religious organizations in America to take a position on this issue in the early 1960s, though same-sex marriage was not even a consideration at that time. Others in the Reform Jewish community soon took up this charge with passion, and we have been among those demonstrating, filing Court briefs, and advocating for LGBTQ rights and same sex marriage for many years. The climate shift that has taken place in American society in just a few years has been astounding and beyond the wildest dreams of life-long activists like me. It gives me hope for the future.

My joy today is not just because my gay and lesbian friends and relatives now enjoy all the rights to which they are entitled. Today’s Supreme Court ruling marks a victory for progressive values writ large. Many different voices of faith weighed in on this decision. Some of those voices who claim to speak for God and religious values argued that same sex marriage is an abomination that violates the fundamental values on which America was founded. Today, progressive voices of faith drowned out the purveyors of doom, proclaiming loud and clear that our faith and our understanding of God’s law demand equality and justice for all of God’s children.

The future of America is a little brighter today than it was yesterday, and the American dream a little bigger. My tears reflect renewed pride in my country and its judicial leaders, along with my faith, my community, and my values. Tomorrow there will be other battles to take up, but for today this jaded activist will celebrate.

Learn more about the Reform Jewish community's activism for LGBTQ equality, headed by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, by visiting

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