The following blog post is adapted from remarks given by Cantor Jason Kaufman (Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Alexandria, VA) at the Faith Voices for the Respect for Marriage Act Press Conference on November 17, 2022.
Good morning. My name is Jason Kaufman. I am the Cantor at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria, VA and am here today on behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the American Conference of Cantors.
Three years ago, a few miles from here, in a room overlooking the Air Force Memorial, with this beautiful Capitol of ours visible in the distance, my husband and I were married.
But today, my constitutional rights, and the constitutional rights of millions of other Americans are jeopardized by a Supreme Court that has shown that it is willing to roll back fundamental rights and by those who are intent on hiding their bigotry behind what they call "religious freedom."
I am a Cantor. I am an ordained member of the Jewish community, and I am a proud Reform Jew. I am a teacher of Torah and religious text and a gay man, and there is no contradiction in this. I am a part of a religious tradition that understands that all people are created in the image of God and should be treated as equals. My religion tells me that my family, and millions of families like mine, are deserving of equal justice under law and that all marriages are worthy of dignity and respect. My support of marriage equality is not an affront to the "religious freedom" of others - it is an expression of my own religious freedom, my own conscience, and of values that I share with millions of other people of faith across America.
Of course, there are some people who believe that their religious views should outweigh our religious freedom and that families such as mine are not only worthy of the dignity of marriage or the legal benefits that come with it. And right now, those people feel emboldened. Just a few months ago, when the Supreme Court endangered the lives of women across this country and infringed upon the religious beliefs of faithful Reform Jews and so many others by overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Thomas went even further by writing that a review of Obergefell v. Hodges should be next.
He thinks that when he looks across the dais of the Supreme Court, he sees four more Justices who will join him in nullifying our marriages. But if he were to look across our nation, he would find millions of Americans who will not let him.
Like so many communities before us, LGBTQ+ Americans have fought and died in the pursuit of equal rights in this country. We will not go back.
We have struggled and strived since the days of Stonewall, through tragedies of persecutions and plagues, to reach an era of acceptance. We will not go back.
We have seen how the equality that stemmed from Obergefell has made our families safer and our communities more secure. And we will not go back.
And since we cannot count on the court system to protect our rights, we must codify marriage equality on the federal level. Yesterday's bipartisan vote in the Senate shows that we can, and we will.
It is time to make it clear to those of us whose faiths challenge us to stand up for the equality of all people to speak out as loudly as those who would use their religion as a justification for discrimination.
It is time for Congress to pass the Respect for Marriage Act.
The Senate is expected to take a final vote on the Respect for Marriage Act later this week. Urge your Senator to support this historic bill.