Today's Supreme Court decisions about marriage mark a great transformation in our country. I am careful to remember that the Court's mandate is not precisely justice, in a broad moral sense. The justices are responsible for interpreting the specific words of the U.S. Constitution, and the voluminous case law that is often about procedures ("standing") above other things. But today, the decisions in both the Defense of Marriage Act case and the California Proposition 8 case clear the way for our communities to move in a more just direction. That is what I hope from our Supreme Court, and it is up to us in our communities, democratically, to create a more broadly just society.
While I came early in my life to believe that gays and straights are equal, I did not at the same time know what to think about marriage between two men or two women. As a religious person, ultimately, the considerations that persuaded me were not liberal concerns about equality, but fundamentally conservative concerns about responsibility and commitment.
I think a turning point for me was in 2003, when I read an op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times. With independence and clarity, Brooks made the case that our society suffers from too much focus on individual freedom and satisfaction over commitment, loyalty, and fidelity. He argued that not only should marriage be available for gays and lesbians, but it should be encouraged. Same-sex couples who make that commitment are not receiving a privilege from the "rest of us", but contributing something society desperately needs.
Brooks's conservative case for marriage for all resonated for me, because it's how I think across the board about what religion contributes to a free, individualistic society.
This is how I view things as a citizen of the U.S. and of my state, informed by my broad religious values. The specific issue of religious marriage between two men or between two women is not exactly the same for me, and I need to spend some time making that case in my own community. For now, I will just note that major institutions of Conservative Judaism -- the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, and the Jewish Theological Seminary's rabbinical school -- have created a framework for religiously consecrated partnerships for two Jews of the same sex under a chuppah.
I celebrate today as an American citizen, and as a religious Jew. Today, the traditional values of love and commitment have new channels and encouragements, in a society that badly needs them.