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Domestic Partners

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Domestic Partners

By Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Published by the Corvallis Gazette-Times, July 24, 2007, page A9

We all deserve to be judged based on our actions — as family members, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens. Every Oregon family should be able to realize their hopes and dreams, keep loved ones safe and secure and live and work free from the sting of discrimination.

As a person of faith, I view such equality to be an affirmation of the divine spark that resides within each of us. I do not separate my devotion to God from my efforts to support and protect my fellow human beings.

This year, the Oregon Legislature moved our state one step closer to providing fairness for all, by passing two important new laws. I believe these laws to be a moral step forward.

The first creates domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and their families, which allow real-life families to be legally recognized under the law.

Legal recognition brings essential family rights we all might someday need, such as hospital visitation, bereavement leave or estate inheritances. While domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage, they do provide a way for committed couples to protect and care for their loved ones. That should be something we can all understand and support.

Oregon’s second new fairness law ends the hurt and humiliation of discrimination that haunts many Oregonians who are gay or lesbian.

This law ensures that Oregonians won’t be fired, evicted or denied service at a restaurant or hotel simply because of their sexual orientation.

Our new laws, ending discrimination against both individuals and families based on sexual orientation, are expressions of generosity and love. In my view, there exists no holiness void of generosity, no justice without love.

Unfortunately, there are individuals in every society who wish to divide, and an effort has already begun to collect signatures to overturn these laws.

The protest against these laws saddens me. As a rabbi, a married man and the father of two children, I am proud to stand up and announce my support of these most basic of rights for gay and lesbian Oregonians. Were my family in need of assistance or protection, I rest easy knowing that the laws of our society ensure my ability to act on their behalf. All of us deserve that same assurance.

If Oregon’s new basic fairness laws are overturned, some Oregon families will be shut out from being able to care for each other in times of crisis. Please consider for a moment the pain and horror of not being able to assist your family in a time of need.

We all want to take care of the people we love. It is a moral act to provide security for one’s family, and a moral act to stand up for others who wish to do the same. Before signing a petition to place these laws on the ballot in an attempt to overturn them, I ask you to consider what moral gain comes to our citizens and families by taking away others’ freedom and security.

I pray for a world in which we cultivate enough love in our own hearts to witness loving, caring relationships between two people and know of no other response but to honor and rejoice alongside. When we reach this point, we truly will have recognized the “image of God” that dwells in us all.

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