Long ago, our ancestors sang a song of celebration. God assembled the entire Israelite people to provide water for them all. The Israelites in return sang this song to God: “Spring up, O Well – sing to it – the well which chieftains dug, which nobles of the people started…”
This song celebrated the Israelites past, present, and future. They sang of those who dug the well: the pioneers who spent years building it and allowing for this moment to arrive. They also sang about water, the substance that allows for wholeness and life.
With last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, we also sing a song of celebration. We celebrate LOVE; we celebrate that Love Wins. We celebrate that everyone in our country, whether you are gay, or straight, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; whether you live in the Great State of New York or the Great State of Mississippi are free and able to marry the person who you love. Love Wins.
Our ancestors’ song was a long time coming. The previous song was sung 40 years earlier when the Israelites safely crossed the Sea of Reeds. In the meantime, there were 40 years of hardship, struggle, infighting, loss of hope, and being stuck in the wilderness with no clear path ahead.
For much more than 40 years, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans individuals have struggled. For decades, those who have a gay son or a lesbian sister or a friend or family member that identifies as LGBT, have struggled. This has been a long, difficult journey! Gay men and lesbians have fought homophobia for generations. We have been fired from our jobs solely because we were out; we have been bullied because of who we are; we have been punished by our state and federal government enduring constitutional amendments and the Defense of Marriage Act. We have been scared to hold hands in public afraid that horrific words would be sent our way or bottles would be hurled towards us, or worse.
As a gay man, I questioned my identity for years and hid quietly in the shadows of the closet, afraid to leave those suffocating walls because I was scared to be me – to be out – to be proud.
Luckily, I was able to come out and to meet the love of my life, Brian. But, when it came time to get married in 2008, New York State did not recognize same-sex marriage. We had a beautiful Jewish Wedding Ceremony, but our rights were not recognized by anyone, except us.
Two years ago, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down and the US government was required to honor marriages in whatever state gay marriage was legal. Brian and I finally were married legally, with Caleb, our son, serving as our best man.
Our ancestors faced a very long journey, circling back and forth in the wilderness, looking for a path to the Promised Land. Forty years, occurred between that first song of celebration and the second song for the very source of being: for water and for LOVE.
Our society has faced a long painful journey of homophobia and discrimination. But, we have finally touched the Promised Land. Today, gay men in Georgia and Lesbian Couples in Utah can legally get married. Today, gay parents adopting in Ohio can have both of their names added to their son’s birth certificate. Today, Jim Obergefell, can be listed as husband on the death certificate of his long time spouse John Arthur.
There is a long way to go before we truly become a utopia. Even in our celebration, even in our laughter and happiness, there is sadness, there are tears. We are in mourning for the nine innocent people, including four pastors, who were laid to rest, solely because of their skin color, solely because they were black.
As Jews, we know that the journey to the Promised Land is a long one and that the only way for us to get there is by working together to end all discrimination and to fight hatred with Love. As Jews, our voice must be heard; we must not remain silent. We will stand together against hate, we will stand together against violence, we will stand together for justice, and truth, and kindness, and equality. We have tasted the Promised Land and we remember the long, arduous journey. And so, we reach out our hands and hold on firm, and continue step by step, journeying forward, to the Promised Land we know can exist for us all.
Rabbi Andy Gordon serves on the clergy team of Temple Sinai of Roslyn