Rabbi Barry Block with his family at the 2012 San Antonio
HRC Gala and Silent Auction where he was honored with the HRC Equality
Award for his outspoken support of LGBT rights.
Commentary: Gay marriage more than civil issue
By Rabbi Barry Block, QSanAntonio, May 24, 2014
Ed. note: This commentary was published on May 22 in the the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette. It is reprinted here with the permission of Rabbi Block.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is correct: Same-sex marriage is, for many,
a religious issue.
It is for me, a rabbi who officiates Jewish weddings equally for couples
of opposite and same sex.
Like the Democrat-Gazette, I understand that some people best experience
ultimate love and intimacy with partners of the same sex.
Unlike the Democrat-Gazette, I use religious language to describe that
reality: God has created all of us equally, in God’s image: male
and female, straight and gay, and with many other God-given characteristics
that make each of us unique.
Like our newspaper, I believe that same-sex couples are entitled to seek
full civil rights, with all the benefits and responsibilities that accrue
to a married couple. Unlike our newspaper, I use religious language to
describe that bond: “Kiddushin” is the Hebrew term, best translated
as holy marriage.
Like our newspaper, I recognize that traditions in our land, religious
and otherwise, have not long embraced same-sex marriage. Unlike our newspaper,
I recognize religious diversity in this regard. I believe the Democrat-Gazette
misrepresents religion, painting all faithful souls with one brush, as
if all religious people view marriage as our traditions did in ages past.
Many of us, faithful laity and clergy alike, do see holiness in same-sex
The most oft-cited scripture, seeming to prohibit homosexuality, is in
Leviticus 21. As a rabbi, steeped in study of Hebrew scriptures, I read
that particular verse as prohibiting homosexual behavior by heterosexual
men, i.e., by those who “would lie with a woman.” The ancient
text seems to proscribe licentious acts foreign to a person’s basic
nature, not loving sexuality between people created with attraction to
persons of the same sex.
I understand and respect that good people of faith may interpret that
I would also note that our newspaper rightly doesn’t suggest unequal
state treatment of those who eat pork, which is more clearly forbidden
in Leviticus than homosexuality. No state in this great nation should
be imposing any particular religion’s teachings on its citizenry.
The approach suggested by our newspaper would best be described as “separate
but equal.” Surely history has taught us that “separate but
Worse, if our state says to gay men and lesbians that their relationships
aren’t equal to those of opposite-sex couples, the message to gay
and lesbian youth is clear: They aren’t as valued, and their love
isn’t as real, as the paper says it is. Youth suicide is a substantial
problem among LGBT kids, their self-esteem battered by society.
My religious values teach that nobody should receive fewer rights because
of the way God has created them.
Different clergy and religious communities are well within their rights
to define marriage differently. The state of Arkansas should respect our
diversity, calling all of our sacred unions by the same name.
While at Temple Beth-El in San
Antonio, Rabbi Barry Block officiated at the first annual Pride Shabbat
in 2012. He is now the rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Little