Human Rights

Obama’s Support for Same Sex Marriages: Jewish Support

An overview of reactions here:

The Jewish community’s reactions to Obama’s remarks were auspicious for the White House: There was great enthusiasm from most quarters, along with restrained criticism from Orthodox Jewish opponents of same-sex marriage.

Polls have found that upwards of three-quarters of American Jews support same-sex marriage. Outside the Orthodox world, Jewish groups generally back it as well.

Words like “historic” peppered statements by Jewish groups welcoming Obama’s remarks.

“It is a significant and historic step forward in the pursuit of equal opportunity, individual liberty and freedom from discrimination,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement, “and underscores the fact that no American should be denied access to the benefits of civil marriage because of his or her sexual orientation.”

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center described the president’s remarks as “a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America.”

“These rights are due no less to same-sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the president’s comments today acknowledge,” the RAC said.

Among other groups praising the president’s endorsement were the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the National Jewish Democratic Council and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Another Orthodox umbrella group, Agudath Israel of America, refrained from directly criticizing Obama in its statement, noting that the president was expressing his “personal feeling.”

The OU said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the president’s new stance and reiterated Orthodox Jewish opposition to “any effort to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.” But the group also said that it “appreciated” Obama’s praise of New York State’s same-sex marriage law, which offers some protections for religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage.

Here is a petition put together by Orthodox Jews, opposing the Orthodox Union’s opposition to gay marriage:

Our mission is to give a voice to the members of the Orthodox Jewish community who are disappointed by the Orthodox Union and National Council of Young Israel’s condemnation of President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex civil marriage.

Please sign this petition to have your name added to a public list of Orthodox Jews  who are disappointed by the OU and NCYI’s condemnation of President Obama’s endorsement.

Here are some signers’ comments:

Orthodox institutions must worry about their constituents, not imposing halakha on the rest of the country. They might be surprised to discover that President Obama doesn’t keep shabbat, either.

I am a 29 year old, deeply committed Orthodox Jew who believes that Jewish organizations should celebrate the separation of Church and State. While same-sex relationships are halachic issues, that has nothing to do with civil marriages. There is no actual evidence that these unions are harmful to anyone, unlike unemployment, the federal budget and funding for women’s health, major issues where your organizations are largely silent. If you feel the need to be involved in politics, why not start with social justice?

As a committed Orthodox Jew, I recognize the halachic issues with homosexuality. However, this has absolutely no bearing on the nature of civil unions in a country with separation of church and state. Jews in the United States have long benefited from the country’s long history of religious liberties and ignore this history at their own peril. I am disappointed in the OU and NCYI, two organizations that would claim to represent me, an American Orthodox Jew, would take such a stance, effectively saying that one’s religious beliefs should be used to judge others on a governmental level.

Although I know this is against halakha, I don’t feel anyone has the right to tell someone else his/her actions are wrong. The same G-d we believe in made us all in His/Her image. Doesn’t that include sexual proclivities? Not my place to judge or try to tell someone else what to do.

I am an Orthodox Rabbi in Providence, RI. While the Torah clearly forbids homosexual relationships, I am proud to live in a country where there is separation of church and state. The OU and NCYI shouldn’t be making these statements, as marriage is civil in our country. No one is forcing us to perform any type of marriage, and we should refrain from conflating religious and civil marriage.

Here is an article by Elli Fischer:

I hope one day to marry off all of my children by means of huppah ve-kiddushin, according to the law of Moses and Israel. But the task of educating children about the importance of these values belongs to parents and communities — not to governments.

Here is the Minister of Strategic Affairs in Israel, Moshe Ya’alon:

A high-level minister came out in support of same-sex marriage in Israel on Monday.

Speaking to Army Radio Monday morning, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya’alon said he believed such decisions were personal and the government should “give people the freedom to choose.”

The former chief of staff, who is often characterized as a hard-liner on security issues, said there was a partial precedent for this, in that the IDF recognized partners of the same sex for the purpose of common-law marriages. Not every personal choice needs to be approved by the rabbinate, said Ya’alon, who sits in the prime minister’s high-level inner cabinet.

And, for good measure, here’s the TV rabbi, Schmuley Boteach:

What if government withdrew from the marriage business altogether, and provided only Civil Unions to two consenting adults wishing to unify their lives, leaving the spirituality of the union to other entities to recognize, name, sanctify, and define? These Civil Unions would equally assure that all couples receive all the legal entitlements that have previously been enjoyed by those who have been “married,” such as hospital visitation rights and end-of life decisions, insurance benefits,  and tax benefits. After all, what business does the government have entering a church, synagogue or mosque to legitimize or define the spiritual nature of a person’s marriage? We are supposed to have separation of church and state in America.

I recognize that for those who oppose gay civil unions this would still not be a solution. However, I vehemently disagree with their opposition.  Whom does it bother to have gay couples granted the decency to visit each other in hospital during serious illness, making end-of-life decisions, and receiving tax benefits as a couple?

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