This article was first published as “For Jewish same-sex couples, US court decision is a godsend” in The Times of Israel.
Jewish gay rights activists on Wednesday welcomed a landmark decision by the US Supreme Court that promises to improve the lives of countless same-sex married couples, including bi-national American-Israeli ones.
“It can’t be underestimated what a historic moment this is,” said Lavi Soloway, a Jewish immigration attorney who has been fighting for LGBT rights for two decades, about the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
In a five to four decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court voided DOMA, a federal law originally passed in 1996, during the Clinton Administration, which defined marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples are now entitled to federal benefits, according to the court’s decision in the United States v. Windsor case. The Court declined to decide a related case, thereby effectively allowing same-sex marriage to take place in California.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. were in the minority. Scalia read from his dissenting opinion from the bench. “In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us,” he wrote. “The truth is more complicated.”
All of the Jewish justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan — voted with the majority. Many Jewish groups and organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Reform movement, came out in support of the Court’s decision. Orthodox groups were not in favor of it.
“When the decision was handed down, I stopped breathing for a moment and tears welled up in my eyes,” Soloway said. “The decision striking down DOMA will take its place among other key civil rights decisions like Loving v. Virginia and Brown v. Board of Education.”
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.