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February 13, 2004 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-13

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Same-Sex Marriage Wins In Court

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
Court recently ruled that the state leg-
islature cannot view civil union as a
replacement for same-sex marriage.
The Feb. 4 ruling clears the path for
the first state-recognized, same-sex
marriages in U.S. history.
The court said the state constitution
requires Massachusetts to offer mar-
riage to same-sex couples on precisely
the same terms as opposite-sex cou-
"The history of our nation has
demonstrated that separate is seldom,
if ever, equal," four justices wrote.
"For no rational reason, the marriage
laws of the commonwealth discrimi-
nate against a defined class; no
amount of tinkering with language
will eradicate that stain."
A Nov. 18, 2003, ruling struck
down the state's opposite-sex-only
marriage laws. The ruling came in an
advisory opinion sought by the state
After the November ruling, the

Senate took up a bill that would have
granted same-sex couples all "the pro-
tections, benefits and obligations of
civil marriage" — but called the
arrangement something else. That was
the approach Vermont's legislature
took when it set up civil unions after
that state's high court ruled in 1999
that limiting marriage to opposite-sex
couples unlawfully denied equal bene-
fits to same-sex couples.
By eliminating the possibility of a
legislative alternative, the Washington
Post reported, last week's ruling left
opponents of same-sex marriage in
Massachusetts with no option other
than an amendment to the state con-
stitution that defines marriage as an
opposite-sex institution only. Under
Massachusetts law, the earliest such an
amendment could be adopted is 2006.
So the state will be required to issue
marriage licenses to qualified same-sex
couples beginning May 16, the date by
which the court said its original ruling
must take effect.


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TOBIN from page 25

The ritual of the bar/bat mitzvah has
undergone a transformation in this
country in the past century that parallels
the rise in status and income for many
American Jews.
Is this merely a question of rampant
bad taste? Maybe. But I think critics of
our coming-of-age culture are more
than party-poopers.
Calling the bar/bat mitzvah celebrant
to the Torah as an adult is a symbol of
the youngster joining a community of
faith as a full-fledged member.
But the downgrading of religious con-
tent and the emphasis on secular display
illustrates the way all too many
American Jews are becoming more dis-
tant from Jewish tradition, no matter
which denominational interpretation
they might accept.
If all we are giving our kids is a taste
for expensive display then we would do
better to, as the Reform movement once
suggested, scrap this tradition for a con-
firmation ceremony at the end of a
course of Jewish study that extends
beyond the age of 13. Indeed, the fact
that for most kids, the bar/bat mitzvah
marks the end of any Jewish education
is a worse problem than the expense
wasted on lavish affairs.
There are some highly positive alter-
natives to hideous theme parties that are
also growing in popularity. More kids
these days are donating percentages of

the cash gifts they receive to charities or
dedicating the event to a cause that they
see as greater than their personal glory.
During the struggle to free Soviet
Jewry, the practice of twinning bar or
bat mitzvah celebrations here with kids
locked behind the Iron Curtain helped
bring that issue to a mass audience.
Perhaps that idea can be revived by
matching American kids with those in
Israel who are survivors of terror attacks.
And, of course, there is the all-pur-
pose alternative to a big party: a family
trip to Israel. Though the popularity of
such excursions has understandably
declined in recent years due to
Palestinain terror, many courageous par-
ents and children who want something
far more meaningful are rewarded with
the experience of their lives.
But if the only point of contact for
Jewish youngsters with their tradition is
a part-time education whose sole raison
d'etre is to give them an excuse for an
expensive bash for their friends, then
why should we be surprised if many of
them reject Judaism as lacking in the
spiritual values they seek as adults?
The bar or bat mitzvah celebrated as a
soulless and godless excuse for spending
money is a real problem for a Jewish
community that wonders about its
future. It is a custom other faith com-
munities should imitate only at their
peril. ❑



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