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Regarding Marriage Equality: Who's on God's Team?

Some cite religious scriptures to justify their views. But, multitudes of varied textual interpretations of scriptures exist, mostly favoring differing views of the interpreters. A single example is how, or whether, the commandment to keep Sabbath, is observed by avowed religious folk who prefer to work or shop all week.

I've recently tried to understand an Islamic view of homosexuality. While I'm not Muslim nor a religious scholar, from what I understand, little in the Quran pertains to this issue except a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah, which also speaks to Jews and Christians.

The actual, deplorable practices of these degraded towns are not described. What is clear is that men acted forcibly upon male guests. Any rape is despicable. Yet, the existence of heterosexual rape has no bearing on the goodness of heterosexual love and sexuality overall. What bearing, then, have these verses on loving, committed homosexual relationships?

Ancient scriptures acknowledge the existence of those whose attraction is for the same gender and those who present as an alternate gender. Many indigenous and other cultures and religions have historically acknowledged, even esteemed, gender variation, including in persons sometimes designated as "two spirits."

We don't choose the biology, religions and ethnicities into which we are born. The full humanity of some is not inherently inferior to others by virtue of their birth. Can we imagine Mohammad or Jesus, whose teachings emphasized compassion, condemning those with physical or biological anomalies to lives of isolation and exclusion?

Attacking or Allying with Others

I've worked passionately against bias and the designation of any group as "other." Although Jewish, I've combated Islamophobia, which I consider a dangerous, chilling, current scourge. Islamophobes accuse Muslims of particular homophobia (while not themselves contesting homophobia with anything like their zeal in fomenting Islamophobia). But Muslims don't own the rights to homophobia, and there are LGBTI Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon, Baha'i and other groups all addressing the biases they face within their religions and the culture at large. Poignantly, some individuals seek "marriages of convenience" as strategies to hold their truths, while hoping to maintain connection to their families, religions and cultures.

As a heterosexual, and someone whose gender identity matches my gender presentation, I am an ally for those who differ from me in this respect. As a Spirit of Anne Frank Award recipient, I've repeatedly extolled the heroic non-Jewish friends who supported Anne's family in hiding, at tremendous risk. They were allies, caring more for common humanity than concerned about differences.

Would we do the same? Should we exclude persons born with traits, the complexities of which science is now illuminating, from the rights and joys we hold sacred? Should we condemn some to life sentences of isolation? If we agree that we cannot bully, beat, pray or wish away heterosexual dispositions, we must also acknowledge the failure of such tactics to change other sexual natures.

Who would God exclude?

I'm often in the presence of deeply religious people. But I don't believe humans can perfectly describe God, nor believe God would create some to be inherently "Other."

Supposedly, we -- with the full panoply of human attributes -- are created, by God, in God's image. But which of us is "It"? Or does a presumption of God and Godliness shine through us all? And is not Love, above all, God's essential truth, deeply rooted in the love, commitment, and family to which everyone is entitled?

A Final Note from the Author

Following 9/11, I reached out to the families of innocent Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus murdered in Islamophobic and xenophobic attacks. In writing and programs, I ardently combat these biases, as well as all intolerance, stereotyping and what I call "appearance-ism" (appearance-based judging of ourselves and others).

I've become closely connected to various religious communities, often speaking on podiums with esteemed religious scholars and luminaries. Repeatedly, I'm overwhelmed by the warmth, compassion and humanity of deeply religious people, as well as secular folks. I'm Jewish, and (despite the cliché) some of my best friends really are Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Catholic, Baha'i, Buddhist and other faiths.

My care and concern for LGBTI people (including a friend who committed suicide) has also galvanized my sense of a personal imperative to work against the polarization of some religious people toward those who are LGBTI. I believe the argument above needs to be part of the public discourse. I believe this rationale underscores an imperative for everyone to care for the human rights, dignity, and marriage equality of all people, wherever they are on the continuum of gender, identity, or sexual orientation.

7/12/2012 4:00:00 AM