Mazel Tov, Massachusetts!
Yesterday was no ordinary lunch break. When noon rolled around, Judith, Emilie, and I headed downtown to the Massachusetts State House for the Constitutional Convention to rally in solidarity with other gay rights activists. With almond butter and jam sandwiches in hand, we cheered as we heard that the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage had been defeated 151-45, ensuring that same-sex marriage would remain legal.
With all of the pro-equality activists hugging, cheering, and laughing, I was struck by the beautiful diversity of the crowd: a man from the leather community stood along side a toga-wearing member of the Pagan Church of the Sacred Earth; a woman holding a sign that read: “Another Catholic Who Supports Equality” stood behind the Social Action team of Temple Israel; “Grannies for Peace” chanted in the street in front of a group of Northeastern Law School students; two elderly men cried and held hands while a little 5-year-old girl leaned her head against her mom’s leg; leaders from the Unitarian Universalist Association sang songs a few feet away from a contingent of Young, Progressive Jews from the greater-Boston area.
It was a wonderful moment; a historic one, and even though I feel my Jewishness all the time (especially at the Jewish Women’s Archive!), it felt especially good to be Jewish in this context. I’ve had many-a-conversation with my friends about whether identifying oneself Jewishly at a rally or in a political movement really matters. After all, a cause is a cause is a cause, right? When rallying in support of same-sex marriage, or reproductive rights, or ending genocide in Darfur, does it really matter whether you’re Jewish, Catholic, Atheist, Unitarian, or Wiccan? To me it does, because in a crowd full of activists, it’s good to feel at home, especially when “home” is your religion and when religion, among politically progressive circles, often gets a bad rap.
As I stood at the State House, I was remembering the night of May 17, 2004, when same-sex marriage was legal for the first time in U.S. history. A few of my friends and I (all Jewish, incidentally) piled into a car in our pajamas and drove to this very same place to witness the first gay and lesbian couples in U.S. history receiving marriage certificates. I don’t remember another time when I was surrounded by people so full of joy and so unified in their celebration of freedom. It was a magical night. As I spotted banners with pink triangles embedded in Stars of David, a sign with a rainbow-colored Hamsa, and two men with yarmulkes holding hands, I said aloud: “Look! We have family here!”
Now, three years later, over a spontaneous “Happy Equality” beer last night with some friends from the Jewish Organizing Initiative (with whom I made 1,986 phone calls during our MassEquality phone banking initiative last Sunday), I felt proud to be part of an activist circle... and I felt very much at home.