On Monday, the first day of the new Supreme Court term, Justices Thomas and Alito took aim at marriage equality. They all but announced that they would welcome the opportunity to overturn Obergefell, the case that guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states.
But this isn’t just about marriage equality. Marriage equality is just the first on a list of rights under attack, all under the guise of “religious liberty.” Access to healthcare and public accommodations for transgender people, same-sex couples’ ability to adopt or foster children, and reproductive justice are all in the Court’s crosshairs. And it’s not just about LGBTQ+ people. The same Catholic adoption agency rejecting same-sex couples is also turning away straight Jewish couples.
The Jewish community knows better than most that real religious freedom and liberty thrives in a democracy that maintains a strong separation between “church” and state. The religious liberty protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are intended to be a shield for our own beliefs – not a sword to impose religious beliefs on others. But that is precisely what Thomas and Alito want to do. And all Jews should be very concerned.
The Justices’ assault on marriage equality comes during Sukkot, zeman simchateynu, the “season of our joy,” while we dwell in our sukkah – our temporary and fragile shelters. “Joy” these days feels out of reach, inaccessible, obscured by the unnecessary loss of life, the dangerous and unconscionable actions of this administration, racism, voter disenfranchisement, children in cages, and the list goes on.
But I am heartened – perhaps even able to find a bit of joy – in knowing what we have something now that we did not have before. We have changed hearts and minds. It will not only be LGBTQ+ people challenging these disingenuous arguments that our love, our bodies, our existence threatens religious freedom. It will be all of us shoring up these fragile rights to ensure that we are able to fully participate in public life.