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Rabbi Denise Eger Headshot

Standing Up to Miss California

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The National Organization for Marriage is acting like if Miss California cannot be Miss USA, then she will be the new Queen Esther. But Carrie Prejean is neither one.

We know Miss USA types but, as a rabbi, to show how wrong this allusion is, I must tell you about Queen Esther. She is a brave biblical figure from thousands of years ago. Orphaned and raised by her uncle, she rose against all odds, to be the king of Persia's favored wife in a time when Persians despised Jews.

At risk of her own life she came out to the king to expose a plot against all Jews. Even her uncle asked her to risk her own life because she was born and raised to the status of queen "for such a time as this." Because of her bravery, she and all her people were spared from becoming the victims of a grab for power.

So in today's real life story, who is Queen Esther? Who are the victims?

Carrie Prejean and the National Organization for Marriage feel they are the victims because of the outcry when Carrie came out and said, "In my country and in my family I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman - no offense to anyone out there..."

But offence IS taken when these beliefs are the backbone of anti-gay legislation. Offense IS taken when victimization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is ongoing.

* It is gay and lesbian couples and families who do not have equal protection under the law to marry the person they love who are the victims.
* It is transgender people who are targeted for brutal beatings and murders such as Angie Zapata in Colorado who are the victims.
* It is every child in our public school who is bullied to the point of suicide with taunts of "you're so gay" who are the victims.
* It is the foster children who are denied a permanent home because gay couples are barred from adopting in state after state who are the victims.
* It is the parents and family of gay people who watch their loved ones suffer persecution and discrimination on the job who are the victims.

In America we have a separation of church and state. Churches and synagogues do not control civil marriage. Conservative people of faith remain free to practice their religion--and even their prejudices. They are not forced to marry anyone in their congregation.

Our founding fathers were wise when they made sure that no religion was the official religion of the United States. They separated religion from civil law. Carrie and National Organization for Marriage want to be viewed as the victims but they are among those who plot against marginalized people who have been forced to live in fear and silence.

Carrie and National Organization for Marriage claim that they are the victims and that Carrie lost the pageant for her beliefs. But one judge, Alicia Jacobs, spoke out afterwards and blogged:

Could Miss California have answered her question in a more sensitive manner? Yes, I believe she could have and she probably should have. Interestingly, her sister is a gay rights activist in the military...go figure? I do not fault her for her beliefs...I fault her for her complete lack of social grace.


Esther spoke up for the underdog and her family. Esther spoke up for justice at the risk of her own life. So if we are to look to Queen Esther, we must all speak out to expose the mass of misinformation about marriage and gay families. There is no threat to straight marriage--only equal opportunity for every person to marry the one they love.

Is Miss Carrie Queen Esther?

I think not.

Are we all called to be like Queen Esther and speak out for fairness and truth "in such a time as this"?

I think so.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA. She is a founding steering committee member of California Faith for Equality and the President of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis.

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