On Wednesday, the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, which is comprised of twenty-four Conservative, Reform, Orthodox and Reconstructionist rabbis, released the following powerful statement in support of passage of the state’s marriage equality bill:
Statement in support of Marriage Equality in Rhode Island
The Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, representing different movements and practices, endorses the idea that the right of civil marriage should be available to all Rhode Islanders.
Our support of full civil marriage rights for same-sex couples rests on two key principles. First, lessons from Jewish history provide us with a mandate to work for civil rights. We understand the right of same-sex couples and their families to enjoy liberty and equal justice under law as a civil right. Married couples receive many federal and state-level legal protections, benefits and responsibilities with a civil marriage. Recognition by the State of Rhode Island of the right of same-sex couples to marry would provide access to such fundamental family and financial rights.
Second, is the clear distinction American law makes between civil and religious marriage. Legal recognition of same sex civil marriage should not and will not require clergy of any faith or denomination to officiate at or recognize the religious status of same-sex marriages. This is consistent with our understanding of the separation between church and state. This liberty is in keeping with Roger Williams’ vision for religious freedom that is pivotal to our state’s identity.
As rabbis we believe that every human being is created in the image of God; thus, it is our obligation to defend vigorously the dignity of and respect for every human being and every loving couple. For all the reasons stated above, the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island supports the legislation proposed to the Rhode Island General Assembly providing marriage equality in Rhode Island.
The Board of Rabbis is in good company. Last month the Rhode Island State Council of Churches “called upon the General Assembly to pass, and Governor Chafee to sign, marriage equality legislation this session”.
Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the coalition dedicated to passage of the marriage equality bill, has among its founding members the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, which represents more than 100 clergy and faith leaders from 13 different denominations.
“We welcome the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island to our broad and growing coalition of leaders and laypeople from a diverse group of faith traditions,” said Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality. “The Board is absolutely right – our shared belief that we are created in the image and likeness of God obligates us to fight for access to the unique protection and recognition of civil marriage for all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island. I am grateful for the Board’s support and look forward to working together on this critical issue.”
The Rhode Island state House passed the marriage bill in late January on a bipartisan vote of 51 to 19. The bill currently awaits action in the state Senate.
It is noteworthy that the Board of Rabbis chose to sign their statement with not only their individual names, but also the photo of each board member. Now that’s endorsement. The photo signature can be viewed below the fold.
A screen capture of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island’s signature on their “Statement in support of Marriage Equality in Rhode Island”: