As seen in The Tennessean on September 9, 2006
By ANITA WADHWANI Staff Writer
A local Jewish women’s organization will weigh a proposed Tennessee constitutional amendment affirming that marriage is a union between one man and one woman — and whether it will support or oppose it. Same-sex marriages are barred by Tennessee law, but voters will decide in November whether to ratify a constitutional amendment that also bars such unions.
The local chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s organization that raises money and advocates for Israel while also taking positions on domestic issues affecting Jewish women in the United States, has organized a community forum Thursday evening to discuss the proposed amendment.
The national chapter of Hadassah has passed a resolution in support of civil unions and same-sex marriages, saying barring them is discriminatory, according to Susan Pankowsky, president of the Nashville chapter.
But local members have not reached that conclusion. In response to questions among the 700 local members of the organization about why Hadassah was taking such a position, Pankowsky organized the forum this week. Panelists include representatives from the national Hadassah organization; the National Council of Jewish Women; and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. It also includes Rabbi Alexis Berk of Nashville’s Temple Ohabai Sholom and attorney Abby Rubenfeld, former legal director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a gay and lesbian legal assistance organization.
“This is for people to understand the issue from a Jewish perspective,” Pankowsky said. “We (Hadassah members) are advocates against discrimination. That issue is important to us because Jews have been discriminated against in various ways. We’re also in favor of the separation of church and state, and we don’t believe there is a definition of who should be married.”
Pankowsky said, however, that she’s not sure there’s a consensus among local Hadassah members about the issue or whether they will also take a position supporting same-sex unions.
People of faith are a critical target of campaign efforts for the issue, said Randy Tarkington, who is directing a campaign against the amendment and has been reaching out to churches who take positions against it.
“The other side is almost exclusively making this campaign about people of faith. We want to make sure it’s not a one-sided issue as far as people of faith are concerned,” said Tarkington, whose group, started by the gay rights advocacy organization Tennessee Equality Project, has launched the Web site www.votenoon1tn.com.
The Family Action Council of Tennessee has been leading voter educational efforts to support the constitutional amendment, launching the www.realmarriage.org Web site and last month holding a conference for pastors about the issue. That group could not be reached for comment.
The discussion will be held Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Gordon Jewish Community Center, 801 Percy Warner Blvd. For more information, call 664-6886.
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