‘Gay or God… a false choice’

From left: Justice Stephen Rothman, Nadene Alhadeff, Tiernan Brady, Lauren Reinhardt, Professor Kerryn Phelps, Jackie Stricker-Phelps, Dr Justin Koonin. Photo credit: Wendy Lessick Bookatz.

A PANEL discussion last Sunday on “marriage equality and what it means for our community” was held at a critical juncture given recent political developments in the same-sex marriage debate.

Hosted by the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia’s NSW division, 150 attendees heard from some of the leading voices in the marriage equality movement in Australia. The panel spoke boldly about the inclusion and belonging that marriage equality would bring to Australia, the only English speaking democracy to not yet have granted same-sex marriage.

“What marriage equality will do is create a very clear statement by the Australian community that Australia is a safe space,” commented public health and civil rights advocate Professor Kerryn Phelps, adding it “will send a very clear signal that you are accepted, that you belong and that you are equal”.

Interestingly, Tiernan Brady, executive director at Australians for Equality, stated that the most likely religion to support marriage equality should be Judaism, followed closely by Catholicism. “The values that underpin both those faiths should be reasons to support equality – dignity, respect, treating someone equally,” he asserted. Yet “all too often we campaign on the basis that we have to pick – is it gay or is it God? And never was there a more false choice”.

Reflecting on his position as president of the Great Synagogue and his stance as a marriage equality advocate, Justice Stephen Rothman said, “If the central position of Judaism is not to do to others that which you would not have done to you … then we’re on the wrong side of that if we are discriminating against same-sex couples.” But he noted that the Orthodox position is unlikely to change quickly, and marriage equality for the purposes of civil law has no impact on Orthodoxy.

The panel emphasised the capacity of the Jewish community to rally together for equal recognition of same-sex couples. Lauren Reinhardt, the first openly gay parent at Masada College, commented, “We are a community of fighters, we fight for social justice … We know how hurtful anti-Israel remarks are and how we equate this with anti-Semitism and for the gay community, when you are against marriage equality it feels a whole lot like homophobia. If we want to participate in the community we have to feel that we are accepted, not just accepted, welcomed with a red carpet.”