Same Sex Marriage in Montgomery County

Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

Last week, Montgomery County’s Register of Wills Bruce Hanes announced that he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In today’s Philadelphia Daily News, State Senate Daylin Leach defends Hanes’ action:

These licenses would seem to be issued in contradiction to the Pennsylvania statute that limits marriage to one man and one woman. Mr. Hanes says that he believes that law is unconstitutional and therefore not enforceable.

Some have attacked Mr. Hanes for essentially going rogue. They say that he does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he wants to enforce and which ones he does not. They also point out that if a law is unconstitutional, it should be a judge who makes that determination, not a county row officer. While these are reasonable points to make, they miss the true issues at stake. A more comprehensive review of relevant legal issues reveals that the actions taken by Mr. Hanes were, in fact, correct.

In fact, Leach officiated over a Montgomery County same-sex marriage on Monday and PoliticsPA wrote a  piece about it entitled Leach Loves Gays So Much He Marries Them:

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to officiate the marriage of a wonderful, loving couple this afternoon in Montgomery County,” Leach said. “Today’s ceremony proves that little by little, we are making strides toward full equality here in Pennsylvania. Each court ruling and each supportive decision made by elected officials puts another crack in the armor of discrimination. Today’s ceremony shows that love can indeed conquer all.”

Leach has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. He introduced the first bill in the state Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010.

DOMA, Proposition 8 Decisions and What Makes Our Nation Great

— by Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were met with celebration by many who have supported the right of people of the same sex to marry. Others have felt that such rights should not be afforded because of earnestly held religious beliefs. There are differing opinions as to how Jews should respond to this issue, although there is consensus that Judaism teaches respect for others and that we abhor discrimination against individuals.

More after the jump.
We live in a democratic society, in which we are all free to express our opinions about social issues and to advocate vigorously for those opinions. That is part of what makes our nation great. We have a system of laws that protects our rights to speech, religion — and to petition our government to redress grievances as the plaintiffs in the marriage cases did today. No one group and no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic. In the end, our democratic process determines matters such as this, and that process has spoken. Many in our community are celebrating this decision. Others do not join in that celebration. Together, we must continue in honest dialogue, learning from one another, and striving for what is best for our community and our nation.

It’s Time for Pennsylvania to Pass Marriage Equality Legislation


An LGBT flag in Philadelphia

— by State Senator Daylin Leach

Yesterday, the Supreme Court spoke on the issue of marriage equality. And the sound you heard is the arc of history bending toward justice. The court did two things:

  • They struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which means that gay and lesbian couples who are legally married in any state, are now fully and completely married in the eyes of the federal government — they will now receive all rights and benefits of marriage — and the obscene discrimination that they faced in federal law prior to today is over.
  • The court also dismissed the appeal of a lower court’s decision striking down Proposition 8 in California. This means that the lower court’s ruling stands, and that gay and lesbian couples in California are now legally free to marry the person they love, and 38 million Californians now live under equality.

Continued after the jump.
These two decisions bring our nation into line with our historic values. Discrimination and bigotry are simply not in America’s DNA. The Court’s decision in the DOMA case was particularly poignant and insightful, saying that laws that treat gay and straight people differently have “no legitimate purpose.”

This language, and these decisions make it clear that legal discrimination against gay people is on its way to the ash-heap of history. The legislature and governor of Pennsylvania now have a crucial decision to make. Do we now embrace equality and, as Hubert Humphrey said, “walk into the bright sunshine of human rights?” Or do we join states like Mississippi and Alabama as dead-enders, fighting a sad and futile battle for prejudice and fear?

I know where I stand. And the polls show where the people of Pennsylvania stand. It’s time for our government to do right by all of the people of our great Commonwealth, and pass marriage equality and anti-discrimination legislation this year.

Tel Aviv Redefines Itself as “Most Gay-Friendly City in the World”

For: Gay Sports News

After becoming the first gay couple to wed in France, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau celebrated their honeymoon with 100,000 people at Tel Aviv’s gay pride weekend.

On May 29, 2013, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau were the first gay couple to be married in France after the country became the 14th in the world to legalize gay marriage and adoption. According to The Jerusalem Post, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, who hosted the couple in Israel, said the couple represents the spirit of liberal French people, and he was excited to see them promote ‘tolerance and understanding’ around the world. Bigot said the couple was invited ‘to create new links between France and Israel’.

Read More.

Against: Catholic Online

Just over a week ago, Fran├žois Hollande signed a law which utterly destroyed the concept of marriage as it was known in France since medieval times. Under the law, two individuals of the same sex may now call themselves “married.” Vincent Autin, 40, and Bruno Boileau, 29, were the first homosexual couple to get married under the new law. For their honeymoon, they visited Israel. The media followed the couple as though they were celebrities. They were invited to the opening event of Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Month. In honor of the event, the pillars on the Old City Hall were lit up in rainbow colors with trance music blaring from speakers.

Read More.

Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen.

Human Rights Campaign First-Ever Index of LGBT Religious Inclusion


Jeremy Burton

Statistics show that most of us have some family members who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning where they fit in terms of gender. Loving and including our loved ones for all of who they are is what healthy families and communities do, IMHO. So it is good to learn that The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released today its first-ever index of inclusion within a faith-based community. “The Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) provides benchmarks for gauging, and resources for improving, LGBT inclusivity policies and practices of North American Jewish communal organizations. The entire report is available at online.”


Rabbi David Saperstein


Joy Ladin

Initiated by the ever-progressive Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, together with The Morningstar Foundation, Stuart Kurlander and an anonymous donor, the report aims “to push the Jewish community to prioritize inclusion of LGBT employees, members and volunteers into communal organizations. Here are some excerpts from their press release:

Findings from the index include:

  1. 98% of participating membership-based organizations offer same-sex couples family memberships;
  2. 90% of participating organizations include inclusive terms in their publicity materials;
  3. 75% of participating organizations have not specifically recruited LGBT individuals to their lay leadership board in the past three years (often cited as a significant contributor to increased awareness about inclusive policies);
  4. 73% of responding organizations have a written non-discrimination policy;
  5. 66% of participating organizations actively reach out to the LGBT community to attract members or clients; and
  6. 33% of participating organizations with youth programming have a written anti-bullying policy.

Organizations that participated in the survey were from 26 states across the U.S, the District of Columbia and Canada, and represented a range of denominations, though no survey submissions were received from any Orthodox institutions. Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Federations and Hillels were among those with the highest rates of participation.

The report contains a number of resources, including a checklist of 14 steps organizations can take to be more welcoming and inclusive of LGBT families, couples and individuals, and an assessment of organizations’ cultural competency in delivering services to the LGBT community.

Timed to coincide with the release of the report, the survey’s supporters have joined with Keshet-the national grassroots organization that works for the full inclusion and equality of LGBT Jews in Jewish life-to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion and spread these and other tools for action. Visit the Tumblr site.

Led and supported by LGBT Jews and straight allies, Keshet offers resources and trainings to create inclusive Jewish communities nationwide as well as community programs for LGBT Jews.

“This report marks a milestone in the Jewish community,” said Idit Klein, Executive Director of Keshet. “We hope it will galvanize our leaders to make LGBT inclusion a key priority, and we invite organizations at any stage of inclusion to reach out to us for training, resources and assistance to make our community a home for all.”


Full Disclosure: Rabbi Milgram authored the first inclusive guide to Jewish rites of Passage titled Living Jewish Life Cycle: How to Create Meaningful Jewish Rites of Passage at Every Stage of Life.

All People Deserve Respect


— by David Street

Yesterday, President Barack Obama joined with the sweeping majority of American Jews in supporting marriage equality for all Americans. Leading Jewish organizations including the NJDC lauded the President’s show of support.

“To put it plainly, the vast majority of American Jews are behind the President in support of marriage equality,” commented NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris. “In recent decades, many of our community’s mainstream institutions have worked to welcome and include gays and lesbians-to the point where it is now a widely accepted norm, with certain Jewish clergy routinely performing same-sex marriages. But perhaps most notably, the recent poll released by the Public Religion Research institute found that at least 81% of American Jews support marriage equality — showing that grassroots American Jewry, our communal institutions, and now the President are united on this important civil rights issue.”

A roundup of their statements appears below.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

We enthusiastically welcome President Obama’s endorsement today of marriage equality for all couples. History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America. … Civil marriage has historically connoted social acceptance and the recognition of not just a legal relationship between two individuals, but as the Supreme Court has recognized, is ‘the most important relation in life’ (Maynard v. Hill); it is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred’ (Griswold v. Connecticut). These rights are due no less to same sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the President’s comments today acknowledge….

The support of the President on this issue is particularly meaningful to us as Jews. Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans, including civil marriage, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who are still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, and discriminated against because of who they are.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

We are gratified to know that President Obama has said publicly what so many of us have known for some time — that civil marriage is a basic civil right. It should not be denied to anyone.  We stand firm in our belief that civil marriage, which is not bound by halacha [Jewish law] but conveys many civil rights and privileges, should be open to all. That comes from our belief that human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in God’s image — and therefore have an inherent dignity.

Keshet, which works to “ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews are fully included in all parts of the Jewish community” sent the tweet on the right.

More reactions after the jump.
Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, said:

Hadassah commends President Obama for taking an important step today in showing his commitment to and respect for the LGBT community. Hadassah has long supported LGBT rights, and we firmly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans are treated equally and have equal access to the same rights. Hadassah is committed to the preservation of rights for all people and vigorously condemns discrimination of any kind. As Zionists, Hadassah members understand the dangers of bigotry.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said:

NCJW hails President Obama’s decision to express his personal support for same-sex marriage. NCJW has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and we happily welcome the president to this fight for fundamental human rights at this important time. While setbacks such as the lamentable vote yesterday in North   Carolina are unfortunate, we firmly believe that supporters of marriage equality are on the right side of history. NCJW is proud to work with the President of the United States to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected equally under the law and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The National Jewish Democratic Council‘s Chair Marc R. Stanley said:

On behalf of NJDC’s board, staff, and membership, I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality. From working to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to ending the Federal Government’s defense of the unjust Defense of Marriage Act, this President has demonstrated an unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans. I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.

Bend the Arc

: A Partnership for Justice’s Alan van Capelle said:

Tonight when I go home and look at my six month old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family. For many Americans, this is a political issue. For millions more, it’s deeply personal.

I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country who support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, including 76 percent of American Jews.

Haaretz reported that Israeli LGBT leaders lauded the President’s statement of support:

Irit Rosenblum, founder and CEO of the organization New Family, called the move extremely important. ‘It is a huge step for the enlightened world that the strongest leader publicly recognizes the new family. In doing so, he is obviously posing a challenge to the world’s religious public. I think that this is certainly a very brave act. He is creating the necessary world balance. At a time when it seems the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist and conservative, this is a liberal point of light.’

According to New Family, there are currently some 18,000 same-sex families living in Israel. Some 4,500 children are being raising in same-sex families, and that number has risen significantly in recent years….

Itay Pinkas, chairman of Tel Aviv’s gay community center, also joined in praising Obama, Pinkas further criticized the situation of the LGBT community in Israel. ‘The only two leaders to bring up the rights of the community in a congressional speech were Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama spoke of the importance of equality during his inauguration speech…he is one of the heads of state most supportive of equality for all citizens.’

Jay Michaelson explained Three Reasons Obama’s Right on Gay Marriage in The Forward:

First is the ‘who.’ Obama’s support of same-sex marriage signals that he’s not going to let a noisy religious minority dictate public policy. This is important for all religious minorities, including the Jewish one, because that same group of angry fundamentalists wants to Christianize America, support the radical settler-fringe in Israel against Israel’s own best interests (as reflected by the mainstream of Israeli public opinion), and erode the separation of church and state. … If American Jews care about maintaining our religious freedom, we must not allow sectarian religious values to dictate public policy. Period.

Second is the ‘what.’ Obama’s statement brings him in line not just with 55% of the American public, as revealed in a recent Gallup poll, but with the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist religious people as well….

Most American Jews …  know that the two obscure and unclear verses in Leviticus may be interpreted in any number of ways. And we know that the core values of our religious and social traditions are upheld, not undermined, by interpreting them narrowly, such that they apply to virtually no LGBT people today.

Which brings me to my third point, which is the religious nature of Obama’s statement itself. What the President said today means little as a statement of public policy since it has little impact ‘on the ground.’ It means more as an expression of personal conviction and conscience. What he said was that, over time, he has seen the truth of same-sex couples: that they are as capable of commitment, love, and sanctity of opposite-sex ones; and that it is an injustice to deny the benefits of marriage to gay people. Those are religious values, expressed in a personal way. It demonstrates the growth of individual conscience: he used to feel one way, but over time, in a careful and long process of discernment, he has now come to feel a different way….

Obama’s statement is thus a model for how all of us ought to evolve on issues of values and society. We grow as human beings by a combination of humility and courage: humility in the face of what we do not know, and courage to take a stand and change our minds. If that’s not a Jewish value, I don’t know what is.

Israel Featured Nation at Equality Forum


Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren

Israel was the featured nation at the Equality Forum, a worldwide LGBT rights conference based in Philadelphia, in May 3-6, 2012.

The forum began with a VIP kickoff reception held at the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets. In the lobby of the Gershman, the works of Israeli photographer David Adika were displayed, as part of the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit. Titled Equator, Adika’s photographs were displayed on the north, east south, and west sides of the lobby, representing similar regions in Israel.

More after the jump.


Left to right: Equality Forum Executive Director Malcolm Lazin, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Of his photography, Adika said, “It’s about the place I come from, and I wanted to give a record from Israel.” Asked whether his sexuality affects his work, Adika says, “Yes, but it’s not my agenda. My sexuality is not my agenda, it’s part of my identity. Of course it reflects (in his works), but it’s not very particular, it’s in it, but it’s not talking about it.”    

Explaining the exhibit on the walls of the lobby, Adika said, “Here there are four walls, the south wall, the north wall, the east wall, and the west wall. Each wall are related to their (equivalents) in Israel.” The south wall, he said, shows the Dead Sea, which is in the south of Israel; “I want to show in this work,” he added, “two (opposing) forces, the one that sinks, like this, it’s a sinkhole, and the one that floats, when you’re in the Dead Sea, you float.” The opposite forces at work, added Adika, were “sinking and floating, with all the metaphor you can think of.”

Debra Blair, Chair of the Board of the Equality Forum, said of Israel as a featured nation, “We’ve had several key countries from around the world, that are in stages of Gay liberation. I think to look at Israel, amongst the number of countries we’ve looked at, it’s just timely. There’s quite a bit of controversy around  having Israel, and that’s all the better for us, because that means we’re pushing the envelope for folks to be seen in terms of what they’re trying to do to get in a better place for equality for LGBT citizens.”

Elaborating on the controversy around Israel, Blair added, “With any particular country that has extenuating issues, that may or may not even deal with the LGBT movement, there will always be folks that, when you decide to honor or feature a particular country, they look for things to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing this, they’re doing that wrong.’ We’re simply focusing on the issues of LGBT civil rights around the world. When you have folks coming in to talk about what Israel may or may not be doing in terms of their political positions, or things of that nature, that’s where we put the stops on.” The focus, said Blair is “what (Israel is) doing to move the LGBT citizen to a different place of visibility.”

What has Israel done towards LGBT equality? “They have a number of initiatives,” replied Blair, who is an Assistant Professor in the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management of Temple University. “One of things we look at are those countries that are looking at (the LGBT) market as a potential tourism market. They, like many other countries around the world, are looking at the LGBT market and saying, ‘Come to Israel, we are a great destination.'” Israel, said Blair, has “challenges like every other place around the world around freedoms, but (Israel is) trying to be pro-active, to be welcoming.”

At the start of the kickoff, Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum, spoke of the history of the Forum, stating that the organizers called it “a civil rights summit,” adding, “People in our own community really didn’t believe us, they thought we were engaging in hyperbola. Back when we said (the Forum) has an international focus, there was a moment in time when people were not focusing internationally, in terms of our national organizations…

“We’re (of Equality Forum) proud of our history,” added Lazin, “As you know, we co-produced (the documentary) Gay Pioneers, at a moment in time when very few in this community knew who Barbara Gittings was.” Gittings, along with Frank Kameny, were, as Lazin put it, “the father and mother of our organized (LGBT) civil-rights movement. We make the film Gay Pioneers with PBS and went out across PBS (stations) and schools across the country.”

Daniel Kuttner, Counsel-General of Israel to Philadelphia, said, “Israel resides in a rough neighborhood…but in spite of the hardship we sometimes bear, Israel is a state (with a) thriving cultural life-music, dance, theater, literature, I could go on,” as Kuttner commended David Adika, “whose photographic art is critically acclaimed throughout the world.” Kuttner gave his thanks to the University of the Arts, the Gershman Y, and Equality Forum for their work in putting together the events of the Forum.

Malcolm Lazin presented the Forum’s Distinguished Service Award to local philanthropist Mel Heifetz. “Many of you know Mel,” added Lazin, “because of his really remarkable philanthropy, there is certainly in the Philadelphia region who has been more philanthropic across the board to the LGBT community.” Heifets, said Lazin, helped to pay off the mortgage for the William Way LGBT Center, located at 13th and Spruce streets, and has donated generously to the AIDS community and to gay-friendly political candidates.  

Israel is Featured Nation for Equality Forum

Israel will be the featured nation in the 20th Annual Equality Forum, a worldwide summit for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues, held in Philadelphia on May 3-6, 2012.

On Tuesday, May 1 through Sunday, May 6, the 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit will feature the works of Israeli photographer David Adika in the lobby of the Gershman Y, Broad and Pine streets; Adika will also give a lecture at the University of the Arts and meet with the artistic community of Philadelphia.

More after the jump.

On Wednesday May 2, a VIP kickoff event will take place at the Gershman Y, with Daniel Kutner, Consul-General of Israel for Philadelphia.

On Thursday May 3, there will be a Featured Nation panel discussion on Israel. On Friday May 4 there will be a drag show at Tabu nightclub, 200 South 12th Street, with a performance by Tel Aviv drag performer and signer Osher Sabag.

Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of the Equality Forum, says, “Every year, we have an international focus,” which means  it examines “the conditions and challenges of that particular (nation) in terms of the LGBT community of that particular nation. It also gives us an opportunity to measure the United States against what has been achieved or what hasn’t been achieved in that nation or region.”

About the religious extremism in Israel, with rabbis condemning “sodomy”, Lazin says, “Everybody’s entitled to their viewpoint. Israel is, I would call it, a ‘semi-secular’ country. Certainly the religious community has much more of an influence than it would in most first-world nations. But it is a democracy, and the LGBT community (in Israel) is treated with dignity and respect.”        

Ten Things Every American Jew Should Know About Mitt Romney


Pro-life mailer sent by Romney campaign to Iowa voters


Ron Paul (R-TX) & Mitt Romney (R-MA) laugh during break at debate Jan. 23. Photo: Chris O’Meara (AP)

(NJDC) Below are ten documented things every American Jew should know about former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney; follow the links to view supporting materials.

  1. Romney emphasized recently that he would defund Planned Parenthood, and that his would “be a pro-life presidency.”
  2. Questions linger surrounding the Iran-tainted assets of Romney’s charity, even as President Obama places unprecedented pressure on Iran.
  3. With each passing month, Romney has disagreed more and more with the scientific consensus regarding global climate change.
  4. Romney vehemently opposed the President’s contraception compromise, which will ensure that women’s preventive services are widely available while addressing religious liberty concerns. This compromise was praised by groups ranging from the Catholic Health Association to the Orthodox Union.
  5. During nationally-televised debates, Romney has engaged in outright lies surrounding the President’s record on Israel, and he uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue whenever possible.
  6. While 76% of Jews support gay marriage and even more support gay rights, Romney doesn’t just oppose gay marriage — he has chosen to engage in gay-baiting rhetoric in front of conservative crowds.
  7. Romney told CNN, “yes, I would vote for” the anti-Israel Ron Paul for president if Paul were to become the GOP nominee.
  8. Romney’s flip-flops are legendary; for example, he supported key elements of the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate — but he now promises to dismantle it.
  9. Romney is no moderate, at least not now. By his own description, he’s “severely conservative.”
  10. As the front page of The Washington Post has recently noted, Romney has formed a “strategic partnership” with the anti-Israel Ron Paul.