Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, Calif. She is currently Vice President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California and busy marrying couples before election day. In this blog post, Rabbi Eger writes about her wedding. In a follow-up post on Monday, November 3rd, she'll share the story of two friends, Robin and Diane.
I did it. After 19 years in a relationship. After having a religious ceremony fourteen and a half years ago, my spouse, Karen and I got married Saturday night. Our 14 year old son was our best man! The same rabbi who officiated at our religious ceremony 14 years ago married us legally. We had family and friends surround us underneath the wedding canopy, the chupah in our front yard.
I have been a rabbi for more than two decades in Los Angeles. I have stood with countless couples and officiated at their weddings. I have married hundreds of straight couples. I have officiated at religious ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples for all of those years. And I had the honor of officiating at the first legal wedding on June 16, 2008 for a lesbian couple in Los Angeles. (That’s another story for another day!). But Saturday evening I was not the officiant but one of the brides and yes, it is different.
I see it in the faces of friends and family whose tears rolled down their cheeks in the candlelight. I see how people who have known me for years—embrace Karen and I warmly, happily in a new way—from the checker at the neighborhood grocery store to our favorite waitress at the deli to our son’s math tutor! They have all seen us and our family in a new light. Yes the word marriage and the legal document does make a difference. And I see it in my own face and that of my beloved. In our lifetimes we never imagined we could know such joy and having the full recognition of our commitment to one another.
The California Supreme Court recognized this and understood this in its historic ruling last May. It recognized the dignity inherent in acknowledging relationships like Karen’s and mine as a marriage. It recognized that the domestic partnership we entered into was less than and therefore it could never be the equivalent. I have always been of the philosophy if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we should call it a duck not a goose.
There are some folks that believe that marriage is only the realm of church or synagogue. But in our country the government issues the license to claim this status as next of kin. And as long as this is a civil, legal matter, then this must be available to all citizens. You can argue the Bible until you are blue in the face. Do what you want in your church. Our constitution protects your practice of your religion. But don’t tell me how to practice mine. For my faith blesses and calls my relationship a marriage. But even perhaps in this instance more importantly -I will not be a second class citizen in my own country.
This is why it is imperative to Defeat Proposition 8. We must vote No on 8 because it would eliminate fundamental rights of California citizens and we must not treat ctizens differently.
But most of all I know that this state of being married is different and wonderful than our previous 19 years together not just because others treat us differently but I see it in the eyes of our handsome high school freshman. Ben is quite the athlete, a fantastic baseball player and good student. He is quite social and many of his friends celebrated at our wedding! He stood as our best man with us. He handed us our rings and as Karen and I shared our vows with one another—a tear of joy and happiness for his moms trickled down his face. I know that for him—our wedding was important and powerful and made him know that finally he really was like every one of his friend: part of a recognized and accepted family.
This is the greatest and most important transformation of all.
Marriage matters. To Karen and I. To our family and friends. And to our son!
And it should matter to you. That is why we must protect this fundamental right—by voting No on Prop. 8 we will.