The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

June 30, 2015 by

A 20-Year-Old’s Queer Jewish Feminist Take on the SCOTUS Ruling

It was a slow Friday morning at the front desk of the museum I work at. With a lack of visitors to welcome, I alternated entertaining myself with reading, texting friends, playing Solitaire, and browsing the news.

And that’s when I saw it. The 5-4 Supreme Court decision recognizing marriage equality across the nation. I was flooded with unexpected emotion—and taken aback by an unfamiliar sense of American pride. Could it really be true? As a gay person, was I no longer a second-class citizen? 

After work, I did what any impulsive 20-something year old living in New York City would do—walked straight to St. Mark’s Place to get an equality symbol inked on the back of my neck. Good lesbian, bad Jew—I know, I know. But I’ve been inked before, and I stand by self-expression and celebration through body art. And on this particular day, with this incredibly close yet favorable ruling, marriage equality was certainly something worth celebrating.

I was raised by secular Jewish parents who left the anti-semitic former Soviet Union, which today, as the Russian Federation, continues to discriminate against minorities, still including Jews, but now especially queer-identified people. Extreme violence toward queer people in Russia seems to be the cultural norm. I’ve never visited where my parents grew up, and can’t say I’m in the works of planning a trip—at least in the near future, because of the realities of Putin’s Russia. 

And in that sense, I am happy to live in America. Happy to be privileged, happy that I can one day marry and have that union recognized. So as a white, cisgender gay American—(the fight does not end at marriage equality! We need to advocate now, harder than ever, for our trans family, especially trans people of color, who are being killed at alarmingly high rates)—I have been upgraded to the status of first-class citizen.

In the secular world.

Although I identify as mostly secular, my Jewishness is not entirely relegated to my ethnicity. As I enter the beautiful Orthodox synagogue the museum is housed in, and give historical tours to the public—I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, spirituality, and lamentation. I mourn that I cannot one day marry in this space that means so much to me, a space that reinvigorated my sense of Jewish identity, a space that still upholds Orthodox tradition. A space that will not perform gay marriages. 

So what does this ruling mean for Jewish people? Religious and secular? Reform, Orthodox, and otherwise? Here are some answers:

The Profoundly Jewish Lesson of the Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling

U.S. gay marriage ruling puts Orthodox Jews on collision course with American law

I am an orthodox rabbi who doesn’t perform gay marriages, but I celebrate today’s Supreme Court decision

Bay Area Jews celebrate Supreme Court marriage-equality ruling