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Constitutional Amendment #2

Contact: Emily Grotta, 212.650.4221, esgrotta@urj.org
Donald Cohen-Cutler, 212.650.4162,
dcohen-cutler@urj.org
Jennifer Gubitz, 202.387.2800,
jgubitz@rac.org

For Immediate Release

Reform Jewish Movement Joins Coalition
Opposing Texas Constitutional Amendment #2

Controversial Amendment Would Severely Curtail Rights of Same-Sex Couples

NEW YORK, Nov.1, 2005--The Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, has joined the effort to defeat Constitutional Amendment #2 (CA#2) in Texas at the ballot box this November.

According to the Reform Movement, the controversial amendment, which would make it impossible for same-sex couples to be married in the state of Texas – or have marriages performed in other states recognized in Texas – is an infringement on civil rights as well as a violation of Reform Jewish values. The amendment explicitly denies one group of Texans their rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits a state from denying any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.

Constitutional Amendment #2 states that “marriage [in Texas] consists only of the union of one man and one woman,” and prohibits Texas from “creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” This would permit some Texans to marry while denying others that same right under state law. “The amendment would impose one religious view of marriage on all citizens, while denying that civic right to those whose faith tradition permits the celebration of same-sex marriage, including the Reform Movement,” said Rabbi Marla Feldman, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. “Moreover, the overly vague wording of the amendment could prevent Texas from recognizing or enforcing private contractual agreements, such as domestic partnerships or employee benefits, which could be construed as ‘similar’ to marriage,” she said.

In his Congressional testimony in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, explained the Reform Movement’s position.

“Regardless of context, discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental belief,” he said. “We oppose discrimination against all individuals…for the stamp of the Divine is present in each and every one of us.”

In response to CA#2, the Union for Reform Judaism has joined the “No Nonsense in November” coalition, an association of both secular and religious organizations opposed to the amendment. Participating organizations include the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, People for the American Way-Texas, and dozens of other groups.

The Union is also sending Reform congregations in Texas information about CA#2, and urging them to participate in community-wide “get out the vote” campaigns and hold educational events to inform their congregants about this important issue. “Regardless of how each congregation feels about this ballot initiative, we have an obligation as civically responsibly citizens to be informed voters,” said Rabbi Feldman.

For the past fifty years, the Reform Jewish Movement has been a strong advocate for GLBT rights. In 1965, the Women of Reform Judaism passed the Movement’s first official stance on this issue, calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. The Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis took their first official stance supporting the establishment of human rights for homosexuals in 1977, and in 1996 and 1997, both groups passed resolutions opposing all government action that prohibits civil marriage equality. In addition, the Union has taken concrete steps toward the inclusion of GLBT Jews into the Reform community, and the Union Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Inclusion offers congregations a manual entitled Kulanu (All of Us): A Program for Congregations Implementing Inclusion.

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.

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11/05

 
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