August 14, 2008
According to a new survey by the University of Illinois, gay and lesbian couples with children and strong religious beliefs are the most likely to legalize their relationship and have a commitment ceremony.
While I am certainly glad that the University of Illinois now has the facts to back this up, I could have told them the same thing without a survey. It does not exactly take a leap of imagination to figure out that lesbian and gay couples with children are going to do whatever is necessary to legally protect their families. Or that such couples, if religious, are going to seek to religiously recognize their relationship.
I don’t need a study to know I will protect my family.
Over a decade ago, my partner, Colin, and I, along with another couple, went down to City Hall when New York City first began recognizing domestic partnerships. Colin and I had little to gain from this, as the main benefit was the right to inherit a rent-controlled apartment from one’s domestic partner. As subletters, we would not be able to avail ourselves of this right. Another benefit, the right to visit one another in a New York City jail, was one we hoped we would not need to avail ourselves of.
Though that piece of paper had little value, it was something — a first of many steps toward the legal recognition our relationship deserves. And it meant going out for a nice lunch on our way back from City Hall!
This was followed by what Colin and I consider our marriage: a Jewish wedding in a synagogue at which a rabbi and a cantor officiated, complete with ketuba, huppa, and rings. Just about every aspect of our lives is influenced by our Judaism, so there was never any doubt that we would have our relationship recognized “according to the faith of Moses and Israel.” We wanted what other Jewish couples have: a Jewish wedding. Like many other Jewish couples, we would establish a Jewish home and hope to one day become Jewish parents.
Now that we are parents, it is important that our children know that their Abba and Daddy are married. The photo album from our wedding is on a shelf in the living room, our ketuba hangs in the family room, and our huppa decorates our bedroom.
When New Jersey, where we now live, passed a domestic partnership bill, we went, with our sons in tow, along with dozens of other same-sex couples, to register. More recently when New Jersey adopted civil unions, our families joined us in our home, where a rabbinic colleague led us in Havdala and a brief ceremony.
We do all of this to protect our family. Without the benefit heterosexual couples receive from marriage, we have had to cobble together, at considerable time and expense, a myriad of documents to safeguard our family. Colin and I will take every opportunity the government gives us to obtain those protections.
Perhaps just as importantly, we do this so no one will ever tell my children that their dads are sinners against God. Our sons have seen the video of our very Jewish wedding. They have been there for our domestic partnership. They have been there for our civil union. And one day they will be there for our legal marriage.
Rabbi Victor Appell, who lives in Metuchen, is the director of small congregations for the Department of Synagogue Management at the Union for Reform Judaism.