Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Jewish Woman's View Straight Marriage, Gay Marriage and Blood Oranges


Are gay weddings destroying the institution of marriage?

Let’s hope so.

A few months ago the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly voted to approve two ceremonies for same-sex marriage that removes sexist language from the wedding liturgy, allows both parties to pursue divorce and lays out egalitarian rights and customs to both spouses.

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight. This is a column about heterosexual women in the context of marriage, not about whether gay marriage is right or wrong.

I understand that many readers may be opposed to allowing two adults to consecrate their love and declare themselves a family before their community and before God. Everyone has a right to be against whatever they want. I, for instance, am against blood oranges. Blood oranges creep me out. If there were a statewide proposition to ban blood oranges, I’d totally vote for that ban. Blood oranges are an abomination. Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Women.

So, for something like 5 millennia (give or take), women have been treated as property. Even today, in the Conservative and Orthodox movements, men “acquire” their brides in the kiddushin, that part of the wedding where the man puts the ring on the woman’s finger and says, “You are consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”

What the Conservative rabbis did in creating a new liturgy for gay marriage is do away with the kiddushin. Instead of one party acquiring the other, both parties declare that they are acquiring the partnership itself. It’s a lovely image, and one that really, really should be offered to straight couples. Particularly straight couples that do not consider brides to be property, chattel or slaves.

Unfortunately, the ruling on the new liturgy includes an urging for straight couples to avoid using the ceremonies for themselves. The rabbis concede that it might be tempting to ditch centuries of sexist language, unequal footing and unfair divorce practices that leave women chained to jerks who refuse to grant them a divorce, or get.

But, they beg us women to respect the ancient traditions. Respect. Respect… the word rings a bell, but I can’t quite place it. Oh, yeah! Respect is that thing where people treat each other as equals and in no way try to dominate or control the other, right?

Yes, I agree! The ancient rituals of marriage could use a healthy dose of respect. Great idea. So today I raise my champagne flute in a toast to the new ruling on gay wedding liturgy and the hope that it can bring about real and lasting change for women’s rights in heterosexual marriage, too.

As for blood oranges, they can rot for all I care. If God wanted oranges to bleed, he wouldn’t have hit the Eastern Seaboard with all those storms. 

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