Whatever you want to call it, the Reform rabbis' final decision on Jewish same-sex commitment ceremonies is being touted as "groundbreaking" and a major step forward for gay and lesbian Jews.
After years of often heated debate on gay marriage, Reform rabbis overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday affirming that "the relationship of a Jewish, same-gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual."
The resolution marks the first time a "major religious body has indicated its support for any of its clergy who decide to officiate at same-gender ceremonies," said Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive director of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Rabbi Denise Eger of West Hollywood, Calif., who is one of the co-chairs of the CCAR's Gay and Lesbian Rabbinic Network, said the resolution will "create the opportunity for spiritual fullness for gay couples." Eger, who underwent a Jewish commitment ceremony with her lesbian partner under a chuppah several years ago, also said the vote would "send a message of hope" to Jewish gays and lesbians, their friends and families.
However, the resolution -- which passed almost unanimously in a voice vote at the rabbis' annual convention in Greensboro, N.C. -- is not the wholesale endorsement of gay marriage that some proponents originally had hoped for, or that Reform's critics will likely characterize it as.
The resolution does not use the words "marriage" or "wedding," and was modified shortly before the vote to say not only that "we support the decision of those who choose to officiate at rituals of union for same-gender couples," but also "and we support the decision of those who do not."
It is unclear whether the resolution will influence the practices of Reform rabbis or lead to an increase in the number of gay couples gathering under the chuppah. Even before the resolution, many Reform rabbis, as well as Reconstructionist ones -- who went on record in support of same-sex ceremonies in 1993 -- were officiating at such ceremonies.
The resolution means that the CCAR can now distribute liturgy, wedding contracts and other resources for people officiating at same-sex commitment ceremonies. -- Julie Wiener, JTA