Gay Jews line up for Massachusetts marriage licenses

boston | It was late on a Sunday night, but Laura Moskowitz and Robin Shore were lined up outside Cambridge City Hall, waiting for the doors to open.

The two Jewish women — parents of a daughter who will have her bat mitzvah in November — were among the first applicants for a same-sex marriage license under a controversial Massachusetts law that went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, May 17.

The issue of same-sex marriage has been a divisive one in the Jewish community as well as in society at large. The Reform and Reconstructionist movements have come out in support of gay marriage, while Conservative and Orthodox leaders have opposed it.

But many Jews were in the crowd that gathered Sunday night, May 16, outside Cambridge City Hall. By 11 p.m., the crowd had grown to about 10,000.

“This is a historical event, and we wanted to be part of the community,” Moskowitz said.

She and Shore live in Cambridge with their daughter Mariah and are members of Temple Ohabei Shalom in Boston. The couple plans to be married under a chuppah by their rabbi, Emily Lipof, and cantor, Robert Solomon, on June 16, in the backyard of their home.

Moskowitz and Shore arrived early enough to be 20th in line among the more than 250 couples that received numbered tickets to apply for a license. Under state regulations, there is a waiting period of three days before the license is granted.

Cambridge, which has a long history of extending civil rights for gays and lesbians, opened the doors to City Hall shortly before 10:30 p.m., ensuring its place as the first community to usher in the law. The development resulted from a landmark decision Nov. 17 by Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that same-sex marriages could not be barred under the state’s constitution.

Arthur Lipkin arrived at City Hall early in the afternoon, securing the fourth place in line and becoming the first Jew to complete the license application.

Lipkin and his partner of nearly 20 years will be married in a civil ceremony by state Rep. Alice Wolf on Friday, May 28 — “before sundown,” Lipkin quipped, in a nod to his Jewish faith.

Jewish leaders in Massachusetts have been divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, with outspoken support from the Reform and Reconstructionist movements and vocal opposition from the Orthodox community.

The Conservative movement is reconsidering its 1992 general statement that rabbis should not perform same-sex marriages, said Rabbi Myron Geller of Temple Ahavat Achim in Gloucester. Geller is a member of the Conservative movement’s committee on Jewish law and standards.

Within the Conservative movement, “we need to stress, no matter where we stand on the halachic aspects of this, the fact that we don’t support prejudice against gays and their rights in society,” Geller said. “To a very large extent, this is a generational issue and time is probably going to resolve it.”

“It was very exciting,” Moskowitz said, describing the jubilation that greeted her and Shore as they emerged from City Hall and descended the stairs. With the crowd still in the thousands when they emerged abound 1 a.m., Moskowitz compared it to walking through an alley of cheering supporters.

“It was a highlight. It felt like we were getting married,’ she said with a laugh.