Forty-six years ago this month, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that marriage is indeed a fundamental human right.
On Wednesday, our nation took another step forward when the High Court courageously struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), bringing our country closer to providing gay and lesbian Americans with equal protection under the law.
I count myself among the millions of Americans, and the majority of American Jews, who stand for same-sex marriage, and I join with them in celebrating this historic moment. We can finally say that gay and lesbian couples will no longer be denied the basic federal rights that their straight friends are automatically granted when they wed. The decision represents a significant stride toward living out our nation's pledge to uphold liberty and justice for all.
And yet, we have a long way to go before we achieve true equality. It is still legal to be fired for being gay in 29 states, including in my home state of Oklahoma. Our country has yet to enact a federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And a key section of DOMA that remains intact permits the 37 states that ban same-sex marriage not to recognize those marriages performed in states and countries where they are legal.
As a philanthropist, I have long been an outspoken advocate for equality and inclusion, with a particular focus on ensuring that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues, are welcomed and protected in all aspects of Jewish life.
I believe, as Rabbi Hillel taught, that V'ahavtah L'Reicecha Kamocha (love your neighbor as yourself) is the foundational value of the Torah and also in the Jewish precept that all people are created in God's image (B'tzelem Elokim). I believe that if we are to continue to strengthen the social and economic fabric and future of this nation, we cannot tolerate laws that drive some of our best talent to choose between living in their country or with the person they love. And, most importantly, I find it difficult to sleep at night knowing that for unjust and indefensible reasons, millions of my fellow citizens cannot enjoy the same basic rights and responsibilities that my late husband Charlie and I, and our family, were afforded.
In my work with young Jewish adults in the gay community, I hear their stories of discrimination, of struggling for acceptance, of feeling invisible not for what they have done but simply for who they are. The stories are their own, those of loved ones and, at times, even those of complete strangers. They use these stories and their diverse national identities, Jewish practices, ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations to fuel their passion, drive and dedication to building a more just world. Indeed, where some might see irreconcilable differences, these young people see potential for partnerships, for building bridges, for working together.
They are my role models, and I believe they are responsible for the shifting tides toward tolerance in this country. They show us how to act on our values, with sensitivity and eloquence. They show us how to speak with civility even when we disagree. They show us how to mobilize around our passions and to focus not on what we stand against, but rather on what we stand for: equality, liberty and justice.
We in the Jewish community must ask ourselves what role we are going to play in changing policies and practices that discriminate against LGBT Americans. We have a special responsibility and civic duty to ensure that all Americans are treated with dignity and equality.
We must follow the lead of these young adults and speak out more forcefully in supporting equal rights for LGBT Americans. We must establish policies and practices that raise the bar for inclusion and equality across the faith-based world. And we must do so not despite our religious and ethnic identities but because of the commitment to justice and equality that lies at the core of our traditions.
I have long called on faith communities to build on our tradition of leading the way where our laws lag behind, and I believe that we can and will do so again in advocating for gay rights.
Together, we can build the kind of world in which we all seek to live, one of universal equality and justice.
Indeed, one in which we can all take pride.