Monday, June 27, 2011

Gay Marriage and Pride

Last Friday, history was made in New York State as the State Senate voted to become the sixth state in the US to legalize same-sex marriages. I found this out Shabbat morning as the paper was delivered and felt my heart swell with emotion as tears began to flow. It's a beautiful thing to know that one day, I will be able to have a New York "husband", even though I do know that I will never have an Orthodox Jewish marriage to a man. I know that we will be respected with the same rights every heterosexual couple has, taxes, insurance, employment benefits and the like- the things that I grew up knowing that every normal adult heterosexual couple has to deal with, are now relevant for homosexual couples as well. It helps me feel as "normal" as I know that I am.

Sunday morning I awoke and got down to Bryant Park where I met up with many gay friends- Orthodox and non-Orthodox, to have a bagel and cream cheese brunch followed by the New York City Pride Parade. The group of us stood by 34th for about an hour or two, watching gorgeous celebrations of men, women, children and the like, show their support and their pride for the lifestyle they lead. I got caught up in emotion as Governor Cuomo, a proponent of same-sex marriage, passed by, and the crowd roared with cheers of thanks and excitement, for a politician who actually kept to his promise. The tears began to flow once again, and only continued as a car passed by with Dan Savage, and his partner Terry Miller, the founders of the "It Gets Better" project. From a distance, they noticed the contingency of Yarmulkes on the side and held up a sign that said "thank you" and pointed it at us.

Soon Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the largest Jewish LGBT congregation in New York, passed by with their float and members of JQ Youth ran out into the streets to dance with them. I was particularly encouraged to march with a flag I borrowed from a friend- a pride flag with a Jewish star in the middle, brought directly from Tel-Aviv. The march was invigorating and exciting as onlookers were shocked to see religious individuals and people celebrating religion while celebrating their sexuality. I posed for hundreds of cameras who simply pointed to the flag in awe. By the end, my feet were killing me but my heart was full. I understood the word "pride"- from a Jewish sense and a gay sense.

Last year, I couldn't bring myself to march. I thought it was inappropriate, I thought religion and sexuality could never be mixed. But as I have grown over the past few years, the two have finally seemed to find a resting place within me, and I couldn't be more proud.


  1. I can't even put into words how beautiful this post is.

  2. Great post Ely! You framed the day really nicely.

  3. while obv the OU opposes same sex marriage from a religious perspective i thought they still had some legitimate reasons to be fearful of how such legislation would effect them

    "...We do note however that the legislation, as enacted, includes robust protections of religious liberties for organizations including synagogues, schools and social service agencies. For that at least, we are grateful. Just as we, in a democratic, pluralistic society do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others, same sex marriage, now the law in New York, must not infringe on anyone's religious liberties. Sadly, in too many states, those acting on their religious beliefs have seen government benefits withheld, government funds, contracts and services denied and privileges such as tax exemptions revoked. New York's law ensures that will not happen here and employers, social service providers and houses of worship are free to uphold their faith..."

  4. I am happy you will get your deserved rights if you choose to get married. I just don't know though how this will make you feel better as an Orthodox Jewish individual who decides to have a same-sex marriage. The civil marriage will never be recognized in proper Orthodox Jewish circles. You'll have your rights, but nothing about those rights will coincide to Torah Halachic authority and nothing about you will be married in the religious sense. Perhaps you already knew this, but I guess I am just trying to understand how Jews like you can celebrate when nothing has really changed for them within a Jewish context.

  5. Thanks for writing this. But one thing--I coulda sworn I saw you march last year.

  6. Anon 3:31- Well, i know a same-sex marriage would never be recognized from a Halachic standpoint. But as far as "Orthodox circles", if my friends and community accept me know, living openly gay, having brought boyfriends to Shabbat meals, I don't see a reason that would change with a legalized partner. In fact I expect it not to (depending on the community, obviously).

    Anon 3:43- I attended last year, but at no point was marching with the group. I was on the sidewalks following them the whole time.

  7. Now if only NJ would follow....

  8. I am so proud that my home state finally did the right thing!

  9. Shalom, Ely,

    Congratulations on being a part of this phenomenal change in New York. As a gay Jew myself, I always am elated to find others who know how I feel and understand what I go through sometimes; and as a North Carolinian fighting off their own anti-same-sex marriage bill, I admire everyone who's taken a stance to win marriage or defend marriage in their state.

    Thank you for writing this, and thank you even more for being open about yourself and helping to change the minds of those who wouldn't change if they didn't have people like you to show them the way.

  10. Ely,

    Your post, which was written with heartfelt eloquence, really touched my heart. As a Jew who is heterosexual in orientation, I will never be able to fully comprehend the struggles of the orthodox homosexual Jew, nor can I comprehend how meaningful this must be for you.

    I can't help but yearn for the day where no longer will the "celebration of sexuality" be necessary. I can't help but yearn for the day that people are no longer defined by their sexual orientation. I can't help but yearn for the day where humanity as whole will respect one another regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion; the day that we can rally with pride for being human beings, creations of God.

    But that is just me.

    Like i said before, I will never be able to fully comprehend how much this means to you. However, I am joyous with the joy that is bursting from your heart.

    Peace and Love

  11. I do not believe there was any legal justification to prevent gay marriage, so I think the state did what is consistent with the law.
    As for pride- gay or straight, why do you feel it's OK for a religious Jew to be marching in a parade celebrating any kind of sexuality? Religion and sexuality mix, because religion mixes with everything we do. In Halachic Judaism, there is a thing called Tzniut. People have sexuality, and religion doesn't pretend we don't. It is just meant to be something kept private. I don't mean to say that you should be closeted, but just that I don't understand why you being comfortable with who are means you should march in a parade that 'celebrates sexuality.'

  12. anon 11:54, I couldn't agree more.
    Ely, I wish you the best of luck and a good life but having such "pride" for sexuality doesn't at first glance seem to comply with basic tzniut...

  13. is there a reason you never addressed the issue of pride and tzniut?

  14. I'm not Orthodox but I am Jewish, and bisexual. For me Pride isn't about sexuality per se, it's about being free and open as you really are. We celebrate the fact we do exist and won't be silent anymore. Being non-orthodox I don't see a problem with being open about suchh things, but my Jewish path is different. Anywho that's how I see Pride and maybe it can help shed some light on such matters.


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews