May 15, 2008 – The Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation (IJSO) and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) celebrate today's California Supreme Court decision that the State may no longer exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage.
Marriage and faith are intricately linked and this decision opens the door for Jewish couples who have already opted for a religious ceremony to embark in a covenantal relationship also blessed by the State and fully endowed with the civil rights and responsibilities given to heterosexual couples. We wish a hearty "Mazel Tov" to those who will soon stand proudly at the courthouses of California to be certified and blessed as wedded couples.
In a 4-3 decision, the justices ruled that the State's ban on same-sex marriage violates the "fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship." This is an important moment in California's same-sex rights journey that hopefully leads towards full marriage equality.
The Reform Movement has supported civil marriage for same gender couples since 1997 when the Union of American Hebrew Congregation (now URJ) adopted a resolution at their General Assembly providing for "civil marriage equal opportunity for gay men and lesbians." The Movement later sanctioned clergy officiating at religious same-sex marriages in 2000.
The IJSO encourages everyone to celebrate this momentous occasion as a victory for equality today but to still understand that it will be challenged tomorrow and the day after. Though many will marry in the coming months, the issue will likely come to California voters in November as a ballot initiative that could overturn today's ruling. We remember the tragedy of Hawaii in 1993 and the victory in Massachusetts in 2003 and hope that Californians vote with their conscience to create a state of equality that is truly Californian, rather than heeding the admonitions from out-of-state funders who feel they know what is in the best interest of our home.