A Bishop, a Rabbi and a Newspaper Columnist Walk Into a Gay Bar


The Post-Gazette has published a lovely piece from Rabbi Aaron B. Bisno, senior rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation in Squirrel Hill.

We don’t like the government intruding into citizens’ personal lives, and we have a deeply ingrained sympathy for victims of prejudice, having so often been victims ourselves. As Rabbi Yoffie states, “We know from long experience that where homophobia, as well as racism and misogyny, are to be found, anti-Semitism is sure to rear its ugly head.”

But there’s more to it than this.

At the end of the day (or at the beginning of a new year), I support the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision and champion the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to secure for same-sex married couples and their families the same legal rights and benefits as are currently available to heterosexual married partners and parents for one simple reason: Judaism teaches that all human beings are equal, unique and of infinite worth.

Thus, it matters greatly how we, as a society, treat and care for one another. In fact, so great is Judaism’s concern that our Rabbinic Sages taught that failing to treat other persons in a way that celebrates their inherent divinity or, conversely, treating them so as to diminish the image in which they were created, is considered a desecration of the Divine Name.

In response, Catholic Bishop David Zubik responded (with a bizarre undercurrent of “over the top” pledges of friendship to the Rabbi) purporting to refute all of the arguments.  Well, he tries to refute the argument that marriage has anything to do with individual rights and everything to do with coupling.

There’s one simple fact that Zubik overlooks and Bisno underemphasizes – marriage is about two consenting adults who have the right to say yes or no with regard to this contract, both in the eyes of the law and the Lord (whichever Lord you prefer.) That fact is what has evolved with the rule of law.The rights of women, the rights of people of color, the rights of children and in fact the rights of men to enter into a lawful marriage have changed. Marriage has expanded to include interracial couples and contracted to preclude child brides in the United States. Disabled people can marry now where that once was considered a bad idea. Our law has evolved in its understanding of who is able to give proper consent to enter into this contractual relationship and individual religious traditions have been left to their own understanding as along as they respect the basics. So a pastor does not have to perform an interfaith marriage, but he is not permitted to marry a 9 year old to a 21 year old. That’s a pretty fundamental example of how the Church and State intersect in this domain.

Bishop Zubik wants the state to intrude on the religious practices of Rabbi Bisno to the extent of telling him whom Judaism can and cannot marry rather than simply accept that he will retain authority over his own faith community. How is that for friendship? No one is saying Catholic churches have to perform same sex marriages. But why should Zubik be able to tell the entire Jewish community that they cannot?

The Post-Gazette editors also weigh in on the decision to refer HB 300 (non-discrimination legislation) to the State Government Committee and the control of noted homophobe Daryl Metcalfe R – Cranberry Township

Columnist Brian O’Neill weighs in on the Court decision to stop Montgomery County, PA from issuing marriage licenses.  O’Neill is clearly an ally but his reasoning is a little … privileged? He sort of skims right over the economic impact and realities that inequality and the projecte 4 year battle will have on working and lower class LGBTQ families.

The editorial board weighs in again on this same issue, rightfully pointing out that the battle will continue.

While I did admire the flare of these random act of marital disobedience, I do think they distracted attention and resources from what will be a protracted, knock-down battle. I’m also concerned that working class and poor LGBTQ families will be left in the dust.

I urge you to attend the I Do … Now What? forum on Thursday Sept 26 7 PM.  Get the facts from lawyers and CPAs and advocates and social workers and more.



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