13-Year-Old’s Awesome Bar Mitzvah Speech Promotes Nationwide Marriage Equality: VIDEO

"Shabbot shalom. In my Torah portion… Jacob works for seven years to earn the right to marry Laban's daughter, his love Rachel. Before marrying Rachel, Jacob is first tricked into marrying her older sister Leah. I find my parsha interesting because it is a window into what was life was like back in the days of the Torah.

"Back then, this seemed to have a perfect definition of what traditional marriage meant for their time, when as time passes we have a completely different definition today. So the question is: how has the definition of traditional marriage changed since the days of the Torah? Just looking at my Torah portion as a proof text, I think it has changed a lot.

"Leah and Rachel had absolutely no say in marrying Jacob — it was like a business deal between Jacob and Laban. Today in the United States, marriage is very different. No longer do the fathers arrange marriages (NOTE: That's not entirely true, but we'll let it slide) and women can marry whomever they want.

"While studying my Torah portion and comparing and contrasting marriage — past and present — I found it would be irresponsible to exclude the topic of gay marriage. I am a very very strong supporter of equal rights and the freedom of men and women to marry whomever they love.

"People who disagree with me like to quote the Bible and say that traditional marriage should only be between one man and one woman. But after seeing my Torah portion that I've just read, the definition of traditional marriage is nothing like what people think it is today. Jacob married two sisters who were his first cousins.

"In the US, the movement towards marriage equality has taken a significant step forward this year. As of now, fifteen states plus the District of Columbia have the freedom to marry same-sex couples. On October 18th, here in Oregon, the state agencies decided they must recognize same-sex marriages that are performed in other states even though, sadly, Oregon state still does not allow same-sex marriage to be performed in our own state.

"According to OregonMarriageEquality.com, Oregon currently has a ban between same-sex partners. The domestic partnership law affords them the same rights as marriage but still is not equal in name or benefits. While putting rights up to a vote is never fair, marriage equality will hopefully make it to the Oregon ballot in 2014.

"This subject is not only interesting, but is also very personal. My family is very close friends with many same-sex couples — especially Joe and David, and Jeff and Wade. They have influenced me to go to Prop 8 rallies when I lived in California to support the freedom to marry and they are wonderful people, wonderful parents, and wonderful couples.

"I was at Joel and David's first wedding in California a number of years ago and it was beautiful. I say first wedding because these two courageous men have gotten married in three different states in which same-sex marriage is legal and I hope they will continue until they are married in all fifty states. (applause) They are here to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah with me along with their awesome son Estordo.

"I am proud to be part of a congregation that is one hundred percent in support of same-sex marriage. All clergy have spoken in support of the freedom to marry and are very involved in the Oregon campaign. The congregation formally endorsed the November 2014 ballot initiative and is actively working on the Oregon campaign to allow all Oregonians the freedom to marry.

"My Torah portion taught me that the definition of traditional marriage has changed a lot since the days of Torah. So why can't it change just a little bit more so everybody can marry who they love? And now that I'm a Bar Mitzvah, I will not only continue to support but encourage other people to support equal marriage rights. Shabbot shalom."


  1. Jonty Coppersmith says

    Great speech by Duncan. About first cousin marriage and incest, it should be noted that half of US states allow first cousins to marry although several of them have age requirements. The risk of birth defects is not as great as people assume. People have been marrying cousins for all time with little negative consequences. Location is one of the primary determinates of who people marry. Relatives often live in close proximity, thus it’s not suprising that rural cousins often married. Most who have done much genealogy research have encountered marriages between cousins. BTW, I am not married to a cousin even though I do have a couple who are cuties. I do have cases of cousins who married in my extended family tree though.

  2. simon says

    I suppose your cuties cousins are of the female varieties, otherwise the problem of birth defect is irrelevant.

  3. David From Canada says

    One of the best and most impressive speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. And he’s only 13?! Wow! What a great guy.
    Duncan is a wave of the future. There’s a beautiful new day dawning out there!

  4. andrew says

    Awesome young man. Excellent speech. This is meant to be a pro Jewish comment: How is it that most Jews have overcome the hateful things found in the scriptures and teach a tolerant and humane message; yet so many Christians read those same scriptures and hold close to their hearts much of the hate and intolerance found there?

  5. simon says

    Not that fat-axx Dolan is reading a different Bible, he is just pulling something out of his axx.

  6. m says

    in the best sense of tradition he is using his own mind to reason through and grapple with issues of modern life and reconciling them to the stories of the bible. nice job duncan. your intellect and sensitivity will carry you far. wishing you a happy and fulfilling life. mazel tov. you are a mensch. and your parents did a good job raising you. sky’s the limit.

  7. Mike says

    Can only look with complete admiration at this young man and how he is able to see so CLEARLY when older and one would think wiser people continue to stumble in the darkness and embrace hate instead . . .

  8. Jake says

    Great story, great speech, and great kid. Just too bad this story had to be reported by the loathsome, anti-gay Dan Villarreal.

  9. MaryM says

    Nice speech apart from the religious part.

    What does marriage equality have to do with religion?

    A big fat NOTHING.

    Civil marriage equality has nothing to do with religion and the sooner the religious accept that then the better everyone will be.

  10. Mike says

    @”JAKE” Do not Dan Villarreal personally, however you posted in part “Just too bad this story had to be reported by the loathsome, anti-gay Dan Villarreal.” I see. Dan Villarreal seems to be all over the Internet with nothing but the most favorable of impressions from GLADD etc. and you are WHERE exactly? Nowhere that I see . . .

  11. Dback says

    After a few years of church-shopping around Portland, I think we’ve found a potential synagogue that we’d really like to check out. :) (My partner converted to my Episcopalianism, but still identifies as half-Jewish.)

  12. Jake says


    Regarding Dan Villarreal,
    I’d say that someone who writes that gay people want to indoctrinate children, that religious people should be allowed to discriminate against gay people in employment and public accommodations, who writes in defense of bullies who drove a gay kid to his death, and who thinks it is entertaining to speculate about the sexual life of that same dead gay kid is anti-gay. If you found anyone praising this disgusting POS, then I would question the judgment of that person.

  13. Bruce Hackel says

    Beautiful speech and what a wonderful intelligent and uplifting young man. Great job Duncan, and his parents should be very proud of him and themselves for doing a great job in bring him up. If all parents did as good a job with their kids the world would be a much better place.

  14. sqqueak says

    Too bad this boy is of a primitive religious tribe that mutilates the genitals of their tiny baby sons. Didn’t mention that, did he?

  15. Derrick from Philly says

    @ “Too bad this boy is of a primitive religious tribe that mutilates the genitals of their tiny baby sons. Didn’t mention that, did he?”

    OK, and that bribe had the greatest impact on shaping the entire Western world…for 3,000 years.

    HEy, they even shaped the beginnings of the Islamic world, didn’t they?