I take great pride that the board of Temple Beth Zion, Western New York’s largest Jewish congregation, passed a resolution supporting granting the right to marry to all of New York’s citizens. This is not a new stand for Temple Beth Zion. It was the first Western New York synagogue to perform a lesbian wedding.
Our congregation has welcomed gay and lesbian couples as full family members for more than a decade. When the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus was to perform at our congregation and a local media outlet would not run publicity for the concert because it contained the word “gay,” we pulled all our advertising and our subscriptions.
As a religious community, we uphold the principle that God created all people and that we are all created in the image of God. As science has shown, at any point in history, at least 10 percent of humanity is gay or lesbian. They, too, are God’s creation and therefore no less deserving of our God-given inalienable human rights than the other 90 percent of us.
Or to put it another way: God created Adam and Steve as well as Adam and Eve.
As a religious Jewish community, we are commanded to understand the heart of the oppressed because we were slaves in the land of Egypt. Temple Beth Zion rabbis and members have stood in the forefront of the fight for civil rights for all, and now stand with those fighting to provide civil rights to those still excluded from the right to marry.
There are those who argue that the creation of a parallel to marriage called civil union would suffice for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. That is the same reasoning used to justify segregated schools and red-lined neighborhoods. We rejected that flawed reasoning then and we should reject it now.
There are those who argue that their religion prohibits them from recognizing lesbian and gay marriages and see such relationships and marriages as sinful. That is the same reasoning used to prevent mixed-race marriages. We rejected that flawed reasoning then and we should reject it now.
Granting marriage equality denies no one’s religious rights; no member of the clergy would be forced to perform a same-sex marriage. Just as a member of the clergy can refuse to marry any man and woman, she or he could refuse to marry any same-sex couple.
New York State stands at a crucial fork in the road. Down one path is the acknowledgment that all are created equal and endowed with the same inalienable human rights. Down the other, the continuation of bigotry and the denial of those inalienable human rights to some.
It is time for New York to choose the path of equality, dignity and human rights for all of its citizens.