June 26, 2013: Remarks at Rally for Marriage Equality

Some say: the government has no business extending legal rights to gay people, because that’s a violation of “church and state,” and the secular values of equality should not encroach upon religious family values. However, belief in the worth and dignity of every human being is not only a secular value; it is a statement of religious faith. My own convictions, as a man of faith, are grounded in the Torah; they stem directly from the Bible. It is the Bible that tells me that every human being is blessed with the capacity and the right and to sanctify her or his love in a covenanted relationship with another human being, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of categories for which we don’t have names yet, because it is the Bible that proclaims that God created the human being—every human being—in the divine image. We all have a right to our own religious views, but, please, don’t impose your religious view upon my religious view.

I believe in the Word of God. I believe in the Torah as the source of Truth. Leviticus says: “man shall not lie down with man.” Leviticus also says, only one chapter later; “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What privileges one verse over another? What gives the preacher the right to extract one piece of Scripture above the rest? What litmus test shall we apply when one directive contradicts another? A wise student of mine recently answered this way: “The correct passage, the correct interpretation, the correct reading is always the one that is the most… just.”

I believe the proclamation of Psalm 19: “the teaching of the Lord is perfect, renewing life; the decrees of the Lord are enduring, making the simple wise; the precepts of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart.” I believe in the perfection, infallibility and eternality of Truth. It’s only we humans who are imperfect, fallible, and temporal. As the Holy Scripture of one of my sister religions puts it (and I hope the Christians in the room won’t mind my quoting the New Testament): “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Today, we celebrate a great victory for equality. Today, we make history. But let’s not kid ourselves that we are now liberated. Like Southern Jews who celebrated the great Passover festival of Redemption even as their African American slaves served them the Seder feast, we, too, only partially grasp the concept of right and wrong. We don’t know what we don’t know.

When Dr. Martin Luther King stated: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it tends toward justice,” he didn’t mean that someday, the entire world would come to embrace his vision of justice. He meant that all visions of justice, including his own, were necessarily imperfect and incomplete, but that over the long haul, they progressed and converged upon one end point. Moral truth is like the North Star, a guidepost by which to navigate the ocean of life, but ultimately unreachable, not because it is so far away, but because it lies entirely above the earthly plane. So today, even as we celebrate our great milestone, let us retain the humility, not only to acknowledge that we still have a much longer road to travel before we achieve full equality, but also to admit that we don’t even know yet what full equality might someday mean to future generations.