Those of you who know me understand why fighting Amendment One is so important to me. Amendment One is a GOVRNMENT attack on People’s Rights. This is not a religious issue. If you believe in a divine being or beings that is your right, and no such higher power or being would try to separate, divide and alienate people as Amendment One attempts to do. I am straight, I am married, and I remain a defender of ALL the people’s rights. This is what the U.S. Constitution and North Carolina Constitution requires. The following letter by Rabbi Schindler was sent to me by a friend, and I think it is very telling.
- Jason E. Taylor
Straight But Narrow – Amendment One
Rabbi Judith Schindler - April 18, 2012
Thank you all for joining us. It is my joy to be here. Though I must admit I am a little tired. I feel like I have been spending a great deal of my energy lately working against Amendment One.
I’m sure many of you are tired as well. We’ve all had a long day. Yet those who are gay and lesbian have had not only a long day, but a long decade, decades, or most likely long lives of fighting for their human and civil rights. When I am tired of fighting for social justice, I sometimes think about Rosa Parks. You see, I used to imagine that Rosa Parks was old when she refused to give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 57 years ago. Yet at the hour of her heroic act, she was three years younger than I am right now, and that is not old. She was physically no more tired than most of us are at the end of a long work day.
“The only tired I was,” she remarked in an interview, “was tired of giving in.” While I am straight and am very honored to be here with Sarah Ford, another young mom who desires, as I do, that her children grow up in a world of justice for all, I am tired of facing LGBT discrimination – especially in the guise of defending God. I’m tired of writing and speaking on the topic. I’m tired of explaining to those who do not understand that Amendment One is discriminating, alienating, and unjust. I’m tired of fighting for religion and shouting out that the texts of Leviticus teach us to love rather than hate. They promote inclusion, kindness and justice rather than exclusion and mean spiritedness. I’m tired of having to shout above fundamentalists who claim that the texts of Genesis should determine the laws of marriage when they do not acknowledge the shortcoming of my sacred texts and the ways in which evolution of understanding is called for. Genesis promotes polygamy, after all. Let us instead elevate the texts of Genesis that view the Divine in all human beings – no matter what their orientation.
I’m tired of explaining that in the attempt to write those who are gay and lesbian out of the shelter of protected relationships in North Carolina, those who have written and advocated for Amendment One are not protecting families at all, but are harming them so deeply. Amendment One leaves those in domestic partnerships unsupported. Amendment One leaves families of domestic partnerships unprotected. Amendment One leaves families in non-traditional marriages and partnerships unsafe.
In North Carolina there are approximately 27,000 domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, and 200,000 domestic partnerships between opposite sex couples. Many of these couples have been together for decades – building love, building a life, raising children, putting everything legally in place, so when life’s hardest and harshest moments hit them – illness, death, devastation, they can be there for one another and for their children.
Amendment One turns the world of those in diverse sacred families upside down. The legal protections those in domestic partnerships have struggled to put into place to protect their loved ones will now, if Amendment One were to pass, all come into question -- in court rooms, in hospital rooms, in funeral homes, in the insurance given by so many esteemed private businesses and by so many public employers in our state. Amendment One would negatively impact the health insurance and hence the health of supported partners and other dependents. Amendment One could negatively impact the required parental support of children whose parents are not married. Amendment One could do damage to those in need of the protection offered by domestic violence laws. In my late night weariness of writing and in my early morning reading of the paper, I asked myself: “Why can love not be left alone?”
Those who seek to strengthen marriage would be better served not by undermining loving and long term sacred relationships but by affirming the values of kindness, compassion and respect. Those who seek to strengthen marriage would be far better served by focusing on building in our state a solid educational system, adequate affordable housing, and increased employment and economic opportunities. All these efforts would strengthen and sustain families. I’m tired of coming out to speak on this pressing issue when I’d rather be inside my synagogue, where I am at this moment scheduled to be teaching our teens. For tonight our teens are meeting with an Imam and learning about Islamic prayer and Islamic life. I’d rather be nurturing the next generation and teaching them about inclusion rather than fighting exclusion in our city and state. Inside my synagogue I find the sanctuary of justice I seek. For just two nights ago, our Beth El Board voted unanimously, in a moving roll call vote, to oppose Amendment One.
I know that negativity gets us nowhere. Being negative is not the approach to create change. A study shows that those who put negative statements on their Facebook pages such as, “I am having a bad day,” get fewer likes and fewer friends. So I suggest tonight a different approach. Let us be positive.
Tonight our job is to turn the conversation around. Tonight, our job is to be optimistic rather than pessimistic. Our job is to commit ourselves to making North Carolina the domino that stops the chain of tiles falling against the LGBT community knocking them down at every turn. Thirty one states have taken upon votes to put anti-gay measures into their state constitutions. Thirty one states have limited in their foundational document legal unions to a man and a woman. Let us be the ones to stop the tide. And when we vote this down, this is what it will say to our country.
Voting Down Amendment One will tell the country that North Carolina has voted for pluralism. The sacred family looks different today than in Genesis. Voting down Amendment One will tell the country that North Carolina values diversity. Voting down Amendment One will tell the country that we stand for the American principles of inalienable rights for all, not just for some. Voting down Amendment One will tell the country that North Carolina is part of New South, one that does not divide, one that does not discriminate, one that does not devalue and devastate those who are different from ourselves but welcomes in our Tar Heel State the rich diversity of all who dwell here.
Voting down Amendment One will tell the country that we are erasing a past that protects the rights of one group at the expense of another's. Voting down Amendment One will tell the country that in North Carolina people who are different from us are in fact equal to us in the eyes of this state.
I am tired, but I am here. I am here not for any immediate family member who is gay, for all my siblings are in heterosexual relationships. I am here instead for my father and my grandfather who knew the discrimination of Nazi Germany. As I explained to my kids in the car two weeks ago, “I speak out on this issue because this law echoes in my mind the Nuremburg Laws which prevented Jews from marrying Germans. It also barred Jews from being professors in colleges and Jewish children from going to public schools. Your grandfather,” I told my kids, “had private tutors for this precise reason.” My father, their grandfather, was born in Munich and lost his childhood of normalcy and much of his family tree through the Holocaust.
Not speaking out against this amendment to our North Carolina Constitution that similarly discriminates was not possible for me. Today is Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day. Let us remember where discriminatory laws can lead. As Jews, we light 24 hour burning candles in memory of those who died. In place of lighting candles, please light a passion for this issue. Please ask ten people to go to the polls and to vote against Amendment One. Ask them to put the commitment to vote on their calendar today, so that tomorrow can be bright for my boys, Maxwell and Alec, for Sara’s girls, and her girl… for all of our community’s and country’s children.