Clarifying a position in marriage equality story


To the Editor:

In the article on marriage equality in New York State, my quote was taken out of context and was used to convey the idea that we oppose religious exemptions in civil rights legislation. This does not represent the view of Reform Jewish Voice of New York State nor of the national Reform Jewish movement.

Over the past many years Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, alongside a number of religious groups, has been working hard to lobby Albany and provide a Jewish voice for civil marriage equality. The article assumes that only Jewish LGBT organizations are supporting it. The Reform Jewish movement, the largest segment of American Jewry, has long supported marriage equality.

At the same time, we have supported religious exemptions from civil rights legislation that would ensure that religious organizations have the autonomy to abide by their own religious tenets. Hence we have long supported exemptions from civil rights legislation that allow religious groups to discriminate in accordance with religious tenets, as long as they do so with their own money or, as in this case, ensure that no religious group will be forced to perform marriages of people who do not meet their criteria.

Since this was our understanding of the current state of the law, I stated to the JTA reporter that Reform Jewish Voice had concerns about the first round of religious exemptions as to why they would be necessary. I affirmed that we were fine with them insofar as they reiterated what RJV has said all along — that no religious group would be forced to perform same-sex marriages.

Very honestly, RJV’s concern today is that as the discussions continue, the issue is being used to stymie a vote in the state Senate. It is less about religious freedom than politics.

We believe the protections written into the current legislation more than adequately protect religious institutions’ rights to sanctify marriages as they see fit without any fear of breaking the law. RJV also believes that the time is now to pass this legislation. 

I am a bit surprised at the way in which my quote was utilized in this article and I felt I needed to clarify our position.

For more information on RJV’s longstanding commitment to this issue, please visit

Honey Heller
Reform Jewish Voice of New York State

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