Progressive Revival

Guest Post by Rev. Debra W. Haffner, Director, Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing – a multifaith organization with more than 4400 religious leaders in its network

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments today to invalidate Prop 8 as unconstitutional. I’m sure my readers remember that in November, by a narrow margin, the voters in California invalidated the state decision that gave same sex couples the right to marry. More than 18,000 couples did this past summer — and the legality of those marriages now hang in limbo.

I’ve been passionate about marriage equality for a long time now. In 2004, the Religious Institute developed its Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality, and more than 2200 ordained clergy endorsed it this summer. It lays out a theological framework for marriage that I strongly support, summed up in one line, “where there is love, the sacred is in our midst.”

I believe in marriage equality because I believe that sexual and gender diversity is part of God’s blessing to us — because I believe we are all God’s children — because I believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all people, and that all of us should have the same civil rights.

But, I’ve learned something in the past few months that has also made this issue personal. I am Jewish, the grandchild of a woman who was sent by her mother to America to marry a distant cousin and avoid the pogroms. Only two of my great grandmother’s children survived the Holocaust. 

And my great grand mother, living in a tiny village in what is now the Ukraine, was never allowed to legally marry because she was Jewish and as I have now been told, Jewish marriages were not recognized by the state. 

Her name was Deborah Haffner. And although I believe that she couldn’t possibly imagine my life today and the opportunities I have, I do know that once she was in love and had children, and she was denied the privileges of marriage and four of her six children died horrible deaths.

In my prayers for the wisdom of the California Supreme Court today, I thought about my friends and colleagues in California and their children and their rights. But, I also thought about my great grandmother, and knew that for me, it’s not just political, it’s not just morally right, it’s personal and part of my own history to dedicate myself to bringing about this change in our country.

There is no doubt in my mind that this change will happen — it already has here in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands. The day will arrive when just as no one questioned my legal right to marry 27 years ago next week, people will look back and not understand why same sex couples were denied this right. Let us pray for the California Supreme Court to do the right thing. 

cross posted from
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