Recently, the controversial issue of same-sex marriage reclaimed the spotlight, when New York’s legislature voted to make it legal for same-sex couples to marry in the state.
Of course, same-sex marriage is already legal in Connecticut. And so, we thought we would ask Connecticut rabbis to share their thoughts on the subject. Our questions:
Would you perform a same-sex marriage?
Rabbi Andrew R. Sklarz, MSW
Greenwich Reform Synagogue
While Connecticut passed the law for same sex marriage some two years ago, long before that, I began officiating wedding ceremonies for same sex couples. While until recently such ceremonies were only religious in nature, as they were prior to the legalization of same sex marriage, in the eyes of the two people in love, and this officiant, they were every bit as sacred as the ceremonies I would perform for a heterosexual couple. In other words, is not every monogamous relationship between two mature and loving human beings deserving of k’dusha, or holiness? Does God care any less for GLBT individuals or their relationships than those of heterosexuals? I think not.
Indeed I believe that the sanctification of our most intimate of relationships is a right all people are deserving of. I am proud to have the honor of serving as a rabbi to so many people, gay and straight alike, who identify with Judaism and choose to formalize their relationships by imbuing them with our great Jewish tradition and the love of God.
Rabbi Daniel Victor
Congregation Rodeph Sholom
This question deeply affects individuals in our communities, and how we understand Jewish law on a basic level. Jewish law is driven primarily by two forces: halacha (text and law) and aggadah (narrative and ethics). On a given issue the valuing of halacha versus aggadah largely determines a denomination’s position on an issue. In Conservative Judaism, the goal is to find an appropriate balance between the two; but on this issue finding a way to “hear” both without sacrificing one for the other is an unprecedented challenge. In 2006, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the legal arm of the Conservative movement, published two teshuvot (responsa), one opposed and one in favor of same-sex commitment ceremonies. As a result, the authority to determine whether to perform same-sex commitment ceremonies has been passed down to Conservative rabbis and their communities. Neither teshuva addressed what they would look like.
Some rabbis have worked with their communities to create a consensus on whether to perform or not to perform same-sex commitment ceremonies; still others have chosen to take a stand despite their congregation’s feelings on the subject. Although I personally support same-sex marriage, I am also sensitive to the opinions of my congregants. This is an issue that has not yet been officially addressed by Rodeph Sholom, but when it is I am sure it will be done in a thoughtful and sensitive way. I am confident that this subject will provide an opportunity for my new congregation and I to learn together and get to know one another, so that when the time comes to make a decision, it will be made together, I will feel supported, and my congregants will feel that their voices have been heard.
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz
Congregation B’nai Israel
For me, a Reform rabbi living in a marriage equality state, the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ and ‘yes.’ I had a civil marriage in Bridgeport last summer, followed by a Jewish wedding in New Jersey. Not all rabbis feel able to sanctify a Jewish same-sex marriage, but civil same-sex marriage is about equality under the law. Until the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is repealed, loving families headed by same-sex couples still do not have civil equality in our society. With regard to Judaism, rabbis like myself who sanctify same-sex marriage understand the following principles in our faith tradition as most pertinent. In the creation story in B’reishit, after each day of creation, the Eternal declares that ‘it was good.’ The first thing that is ‘not good’ is mentioned in 2:18 – ‘It is not good for the human to be alone.’ The partnership of two humans has been understood in our tradition as a kind of completion – not something from which some in our society should be excluded. While those halachically-bound to the literal letter of Jewish law cannot recognize kiddushin (the term for Jewish marriage) between two people of the same gender, progressive halachah looks toward the deeper intention of kiddushin. ‘Kadosh’ is often translated as ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified,’ but it also means ‘to be set apart.’ In kiddushin, each partner promises to set apart his/her loved one for a special relationship not shared by any other. There is nothing inherent in this concept that is exclusive to heterosexual couples. As a progressive rabbi, I extend this blessing to all those who wish to make this commitment.
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht
President Rabbinical Council of Connecticut
Beth Israel Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk
Judaism is based on the Torah that was given to the Jewish people at Sinai (Sivan 6, 2448). The Torah disallows same–sex marriage and therefore Jews who accept the Torah as being the revealed wisdom of the Creator cannot condone or sanctify any such ceremony. The Torah is the revealed wisdom of the Creator and as such transcends rational thought.
Moreover, this is not an issue affecting Jews only. In fact, the prohibition of homosexual marriage applies to all of society (see Talmud Sanhedrin and Maimonides) be they Jewish or Gentile. It applies to all of society regardless of belonging to any particular faith or, for that matter, non-faith tradition. All without exception are obligated to observe the Seven Universal Commandments given to all the decendants of Noah. As such, this issue is something that rabbis entrusted with teaching and upholding the Torah are obligated to address and to inform within their congregations and share with society at large.
The fact that much of society today embraces and sanctions alternative lifestyles does not diminish our responsibility for upholding and adhering to Torah precepts. Mass media has been pushing the envelope for moral neutrality for decades. They have succeeded in desensitizing society on the standards of sexual conduct and values. However the fact remains, that neither judicial fiat in Connecticut nor the passage of gay marriage by elected representatives in New York State transforms or mitigates what is essentially a Torah prohibition and contravention of the divinely ordained construct of marriage.