Congratulations to New York State for showing wisdom, acceptance, and leadership in making same-sex marriage legal! Mazeltov to all the couples now becoming legally wed!
With New York’s large Jewish population this includes a huge number of gay and lesbian Jewish couples. Today, some friends of ours who have been together for decades will be coming out of their Florida retirement to be legally wed in beloved NYC at long last. It’s a great time to be a Jewish homosexual (and, as you can imagine, we don’t get to say that too often).
I do want to pause amid all the adulation and throw a few thoughts into the mix. This is something my own partner helped me to see as we moved to from then non-same-sex-legalized New York to legalized Massachusetts. We were in our second decade of togetherness with two growing children. Years ago, we had our own joyous West Village event, celebrating our relationship with two matriarchs of the Jewish lesbian community presiding. Afterwards we danced to the wild klezmer music of Isle of Klesbos. By necessity, we did everything without support of the law or government (and we did it with style).
In a deep and profound way, we who have lived our lives–loved, married, had joint mortgages and even children–outside of the legal system have defined marriage and family, love, committment and devotion for ourselves already. We all have done it in spite of the increased insecurity, risk, labor, heartache, and cost caused by the lack of legal status and societal support.
State legalization offers couples and families such as ours more security, support, and acceptance. It is a great advance. And, as we have proven for decades now, legal status does not define the family. We Jews who have survived and flourished as a borderline minority in diaspora for centuries understand what it means to define for ourselves separate values and reality, living our lives and creating families and community according to our vision of what is good and right and healthy. Coming to a country where we are more accepted and supported as Jews may help us to create those families and communities with greater ease and safety. However, we would never allow this status to become a comment on earlier statuses–that they were less family, less a community for not being state supported, or less committed to each other.
State legalization is fantastic because it supports and secures that which is already there–marriage and family and, in the larger network, community. We need to remember those millions of same-sex couples and families who are not legally married in whatever state they live, are in no way suddenly less married, their commitment ceremonies remain as valid and binding.
My vision is a day when we can all sit around a table, those of us in same-sex marriages next to heterosexually married couples, and speak with each other what we learned about love and commitment, community and family, in-laws and outlaws. Everyone would have so much to say, so much insight and wisdom to share.
Now that would be a great day.