I am proud to be a Reform Rabbi. This week the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) has joined the marriage equality lawsuit in North Carolina. This past week the CCAR joined the United Church of Christ (UCC) as a plaintiff in overturning the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina. This is significant in several ways.
First, the CCAR has supported marriage equality for many years. As early as 1996 the Conference is on record as supporting Civil Marriage Equality. And then again in the year 2000 in at our convention in Greensboro, North Carolina the CCAR went on record to endorse officiation of rabbis at Jewish and civil marriages. So it is fitting that we join this lawsuit in North Carolina.
Secondly, the CCAR and our Pacific region (PARR) have been involved in marriage equality cases in California, Washington, New Mexico, Massachusetts and the Windsor case at the Federal level. However, we have not been the plaintiffs in these cases. Instead we filed friend of the court briefs as a religious group whose religious rights were being denied.
But with the case in North Carolina we are actually suing the state as the co-plaintiff. This is taking an important step forward in our advocacy and support for marriage equality. One of the things that makes this case so unique among the marriage equality lawsuits that have been filed around the country is that this one hinges on the rights of clergy to perform gay and lesbian weddings. The North Carolina law specifically forbids clergy from performing even a commitment ceremony let alone a legal wedding, and imposes penalties on clergy who do so.
Many Reform rabbis have led their communities to embrace and welcome LGBTQ Jews into their communities and have been proud to perform the first weddings in their states as marriage equality has become legal. I had the honor in California in June of 2008 when I performed the first wedding of plaintiffs on the steps of the Beverly Hills Court House. And this past week, our colleagues, Jonathan Biatch and Dan Danson had the honor of performing some of the first lesbian and gay weddings in Wisconsin, the newest state to welcome marriage equality!
I rejoice that the Reform Rabbinate is taking a lead in this case, supporting our North Carolina rabbis, and living up to our stated values of full equality, justice and inclusion of the LGBT community! And you should be too!
If you want to read more about the history of the LGBT equality and Reform Judaism, read further in the new offering from CCAR PRESS, The Sacred Encounter: Jewish Perspectives on Sexuality, ed. Rabbi Lisa Gruschow, Ph.D.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami and serves as President Elect of the CCAR.