Jewish Journal

From the Sidelines, Cheering the Blocking of Prop 8

by Rav Yosef Kanefsky

August 5, 2010 | 2:16 pm

Just 48 hours ago, I posted a few thoughts about the recently-released Orthodox “Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.”  (Below, I have pasted that post’s central idea, as well as the link for the full text of the “Statement’”.) With yesterday’s court decision blocking Prop 8, I will append a thought about Orthodoxy and gay marriage. 

Orthodox Judaism can never endorse or support gay marriage. Not only because there is a verse in the Torah which prohibits homosexual sex, but also because halacha has no category of marriage that involves the union of two people who are severely prohibited from engaging in a sexual relationship with one another. This is how central sexuality is to Halacha’s concept of the marital relationship.

Nonetheless, I was not a Prop 8 supporter back in November, and am relieved that it is headed toward being overturned. Jews as a group, and Orthodox Jews in particular continue to benefit from our country’s commitment to never allow any one group to impose its religious conceptions or laws upon anyone else. But Prop 8 recklessly ignores this commitment. The underlying flaw in the entire approach taken by Prop 8 proponents is their unwillingness to recognize that the term “marriage” is presently a civil legal term, and therefore must be protected from any religious group’s effort to superimpose a religious connotation upon it.

The simple and correct way to resolve the heated and explosive debate around gay marriage is to remove “marriage” from the purview of government altogether. Heterosexual and homosexual couples can be granted the identical set of legal rights and privileges, consistent with our commitments to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And “marriage” would be left to the realm of religion, where it was born, where it truly belongs, and where each individual religious faith can make decisions for itself as to what it deems permissible or prohibited.

From the earlier post:
The recently released Statement of Principles concerning homosexuals within the Orthodox community has gotten a great deal of notice, both here and in Israel. (If you haven’t yet seen the text, it is here: http://statementofprinciplesnya.blogspot.com/ )

The document is historic in Orthodox terms,  as it repeatedly acknowledges the very real possibility that homosexual orientation is genetically based and is not subject to change. While this is not really news to many people, its explicit articulation in a document authored by Orthodox rabbis is paradigm-shifting. The true deep cause of Orthodoxy’s decades-long unintelligible stammering about homosexuality is the conundrum presented by the possibility that God is responsible both for homosexual orientation and for prohibiting homosexual behavior. The inadmissibility of either of the possible solutions to the conundrum (that the Torah is not Divine, or that God is terribly unjust) left our community inchoate at best, or championing “change therapy” at worst.  The current Statement of Principles offers no solution to the conundrum either. In Talmudic parlance, the question is left as a “teyku”. But the authors of the statement courageously decided that homosexuals should not have to daily pay the social price for our inability to solve the theological puzzle. This is a huge paradigm shift.. 

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