SYDNEY — A Jewish day school in Melbourne reportedly has become the first Australian K-12 institution to support a campaign for marriage equality.
Bialik College, which has more than 1,000 students from kindergarten to high school, provided a letter of support last week backing the Australian Marriage Equality campaign “asking all Australian universities and academia to add their voice to the growing call for equal rights for all Australians.”
“We have a number of families at Bialik who are same-sex relationships,” Bialik’s principal, Jeremy Stowe-Lindner, told JTA. “The rainbow spectrum of our community, and I use the term ‘rainbow’ deliberately, is something that we should celebrate.”
Stowe-Lindner, a former head teacher principal at London’s Jewish Community Secondary School, added that “the idea of inclusion of those whose lifestyles are different to what some may see as mainstream and who contribute positively to the community without impinging on the freedom of others is a fundamental tenet of modern liberal Jewish values.”
Bialik is a member of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia – organizations and schools working together to create safe and inclusive school environments for same-sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families. The coalition is funded by the Australian government and in Victoria by its government.
Michael Barnett, convenor of Aleph Melbourne, which provides guidance and support for Jewish, gay and bisexual men, said: “As a member of the Safe Schools Coalition, Bialik College is showing genuine leadership and vision by supporting marriage equality. The school clearly understands that giving children equal opportunities in life enables them to achieve their full potential.
“As a former student of Bialik College, I am exceedingly proud of my first high school today,” he said, adding that Bialik has “come a long way since I attended in the early 1980s.
“I would have had an easier time at school, experienced less bullying and felt less isolated if the school had told me it was OK to love boys and that I could even marry a man when I grew up. That validation would have made a huge difference to me, particularly at that formative stage of my life.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated there may be a plebiscite putting the issue of same-sex marriage to a vote by Australians, but it would still have to pass the legislature to become law.
Reform and Progressive Jewish communities in Australia perform same-sex ceremonies. Nitza Loewenstein, who said she has performed many commitment ceremonies, told J-Wire: “There are no documents, although I have seen parents present their offspring with ketubahs. As far as rights are concerned, the law will recognize they are in a de facto relationship but not a marriage.”