In Rhode Island we are proud of our founder’s principles of religious freedom. So on the topic of same-sex marriage equality I would like to educate Senator Frank Lombardi and others with a perspective from my faith, Judaism.
Jews believe in the sanctity of marriage. And, over 90% of all American Jews identify with a branch of the Jewish religion that accepts same-sex marriage. (Source: Berman Jewish Databank at the Jewish Federations of North America). Across all branches of Judaism in America, including Orthodox, more than 80% of all American Jews support legal marriage equality for LGBT Americans. (Source: Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., the report on The 2012 Jewish Values Survey.)
The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) is the oldest and largest rabbinic authority organization in North America. The CCAR official position has been in support of marriage equality for many years and has promulgated guidance for specific rituals for the solemnization of same-sex marriages. The Conservative Jewish movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, the second largest rabbinical authority organization in America, likewise supports marriage equality and has established rituals for same-sex wedding ceremonies.
So the vast majority of Americans Jews embrace same-sex marriage equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters. But if the views of a legislator as Senator Lombardi were to prevail in law, Rhode Island Jewish congregations would want to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies but those marriages would be denied legal effect. The legislative position of Senator Lombardi would prevent Jews from the free exercise of our religion.
While I respect Mr. Lombardi’s right to his religious faith, Senator Lombardi is not abstaining on a vote in his capacity as a private citizen. He is acting in his official capacity as a part of Rhode Island’s government. Senator Lombardi needs to know that every time he abstains from supporting a marriage solemnization bill because he has personal views opposing marriage equality, that act of the Rhode Island government is disparaging the right of Jews to practice our faith. While I can’t speak for others, the principle is the same for Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Quakers, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and many many more churches and faiths, not to mention Rhode Islanders who choose no religion. Senate leadership is complicit in this by separating out solemnization authorization bills for same-sex couples. The Senate should end this deprecation of the free exercise of religion by Rhode Islanders of diverse faith traditions, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and by the Rhode Island Constitution.