This morning, I was asked to testify, along with two other members of the Denver Clergy, on behalf of Senate Bill # 172 - the Colorado Civil Unions Act. This is what I said:
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel – Denver Colorado
March 3, 2011
Testimony in Support of Colorado State Senate Bill #172
Concerning the Establishment of Civil Unions
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a ruling permitting the members of the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funerals of Soldiers who died in the line of duty. In the past, members of this "church" use the occasion of these funerals to spew unbelievable filth about their belief that these soldiers died because (and I quote) "God hates fags."
Now while every rational person understands that the so-called Westboro Baptists in no way represent main stream religiosity –the fact remains that for too many of our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender brothers and sisters – sons and daughters, friends and relatives - the message that we, as a nation are sending is that the denial of basic rights such as family security, equality and acceptance is justified because of who they love and how they love.
My colleagues and I are here today because we believe that for too long, the loudest voice from the religious community in regards to GLBT men and women has been that of condemnation and denunciation.
This needs to change.
For too long, loving parents who want nothing more than the ability to raise their children with the knowledge that they can protect them from harm and ensure that they will receive the benefits afforded to other couples have been denied those rights.
This needs to change as well.
In my congregation, in my community, in my family there are many Gay and Lesbian couples who are in long-term, healthy relationships. I know many men and women who are raising wonderful, well-adjusted children in homes where there are either two mothers or two fathers. They deserve the ability to solemnize and legalize their relationships.
This bill is not about morality or religion – it is not a statement of faith – it is about basic civil rights - it is about the ability of loving couples to make a legal commitment to one another. It is about the ability of parents and children to ensure that they will be there for one another –regardless of the whims of fate that they may encounter.
This bill does not impinge on religious freedoms – it protects them. If it is passed, no member of the clergy will be forced to solemnize any ceremony that contradicts their beliefs.
As a Rabbi, I believe that the most important verses in the Bible can be found in Genesis 1:27. There we find it written that God created Humanity in the Divine Image.
We are the image of God.
We are all holy creatures.
God created us.
God loves us.
God gave us the ability to love and to hate – to kill and to create. How we use these abilities is directly proportional to our awareness of the holiness that is implanted within us.
This is why it is essential for religious communities to become involved in the struggle for LGBT rights. For if we stand idly by and do nothing when basic human rights are denied:
- The right to legal protection for families
- The right to job security.
- The right to housing;
- The right to live free from fear.
- The right to ensure that we can carry out the wishes of our spouses and partners when they become incapacitated;
- The right to visit our loved ones when they are in the hospital;
- the right to insurance;
- and so many others…..
This is why we are here today – to urge the members of our legislature to pass Senate Bill 172 - to allow people in loving, committed relationships to formalize those relationships and receive the same rights as married couples. Perhaps this small legislative action will bring us one step closer to a better world.