President Biden signed the “Respect for Marriage Act” yesterday which contains nationwide protections for same-sex and interracial marriage. It requires that any state recognize a marriage performed in another state that was legal where it was performed, even if it would not be legal in that particular state. This law was a truly bipartisan effort with a significant number of Republican Senators and Representatives supporting this Democratic initiative. The introduction of this bill was prompted by last spring’s Supreme Court ruling which overturned the national right to abortion, where Justices in the majority stated that prior rulings protecting same sex marriage, the right to contraception, and other privacy rights should be reexamined.
Passage of the bill was held up somewhat by the insistence of some supporters of the bill that it be amended with religious exemptions to certain provisions. The amendments make it clear that, for example, clergy who oppose same sex marriage cannot be forced to officiate at such ceremonies and that houses of worship cannot be forced to make their facilities available for such services. Even though I am willing to officiate at a marriage between two Jewish men or two Jewish women, and we would make our facilities available, I support these religious exemptions. We live in a religiously diverse country and clergy and houses of worship need to have the right not to violate their own consciences or denominational rules.
As it happens, the passage of this bill with its religious exemptions is timely as we are having a discussion this coming Shabbat about similar exemptions in the practice of medicine. Can a doctor be required to perform procedures which violate his or her conscience? Can a pharmacist who believes that abortifacient drugs wrongfully kill a human being be forced to dispense them? Join me, Dr. Mark Komrad, and Rev. Dr. Christopher Dreisbach for an interesting discussion and a delicious Kiddush lunch prepared by our Events Committee. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by tomorrow in order to insure we have enough food for everyone without being wasteful.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian