Working for Justice

Religious Groups Support Same-Sex Marriage As a Lesbian Rabbi Shatters a Glass Ceiling

Posted March 31st, 2015 by in Employment Discrimination.

As the Supreme Court prepares to address the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, the acceptance of gay marriage continues to blossom across the religious spectrum. Most notably, earlier this month the Presbyterian Church USA — the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S., with some 1.8 million members —adopted a definition of marriage that is more inclusive of same-sex marriage.

“What a difference a decade makes,” observed Ross Murray, who commented on the Presbyterian vote for The Daily Beast, and argued that it represents a “tipping point” for gay marriage. Indeed, nearly 2,000 individual clergies and an array of religious organizations recently signed on to an amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage. The brief argued that allowing same-sex couples to marry civilly promotes religious freedom because it allows individual religious organizations to decide for themselves whether to sanction gay marriage — without imposing that belief on others with different beliefs.

Regardless of legal arguments, the surge of religious support for gay marriage is likely to influence the Court because it serves as a valuable social barometer. In recent years, a number of major religious organizations— including Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, United Church of Christ, Conservative and Reform Judaism, Quakers and Unitarian Universalists— have sanctioned same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church has sanctioned the blessing of same-sex unions. With its recent vote, the Presbyterian Church USA voted to redefine a church constitution on marriage to include “a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

Rabbi Denise Eger has witnessed personally the country’s evolution on same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, Eger, 55, was installed as the first female and openly gay president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the membership organization for Reform rabbis.

As recounted by The New York Times, Eger has seen LGBT acceptance grow remarkably over the past generation:

As a rabbinical student … in the 1980s, Denise L. Eger lived away from other seminarians. She quietly started a group for fellow gay and lesbian students but held the meetings in another borough. By the time of her ordination, she was not formally out of the closet, but her sexuality was known, and no one would hire her. Later, she took the only job offered, with a synagogue formed expressly as a religious refuge for gays.

Today, Eger leads the largest organization for Jewish clergy in America. Her accomplishment serves to shatter a double-glass ceiling — the one that for generations has kept lesbian women out of the positions of power.

Jennifer Siegel

Jennifer Siegel

Jennifer Siegel is a Senior Litigation Counsel in the NY office who works on both qui tam/whistleblower cases and on gender discrimination cases. Learn More

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