Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks’ refusal to comment on government plans to introduce marriage equality for gay couples has brought forth a range of strong opinions – both pro and anti – from members of the Jewish community and clergy.
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Geoffrey Alderman said that the campaign for marriage equality was “not actually about ‘equality’ at all. Same-sex couples…can already enter into civil partnerships.”
He went on to state that the “gay and lesbian lobby” had an “obsessive preoccupation” with the legal change to the definition of marriage. He also said that marriage as according to his dictionary – “is ‘the legal union or contract made by a man and a woman to live as husband and wife’. The ingredients are a man and a woman, not a man and a man. Orthodox Judaism has no problem with defending this, but adherents of the Liberal and Reform movements evidently do, as without the foundation of the Torah they have little to underpin their beliefs.”
Writing in the same paper earlier, liberal rabbi Aaron Goldstein had defended marriage equality, citing the story of the Golden Calf to illustrate his points. He wrote: “I believe that those involved in the Campaign for [heterosexual] Marriage, vocal supporters such as the Pope today, the Archbishop or York, Dr John Sentamu and Cardinal O’Brien of the Catholic Church in previous weeks, have built a Golden Calf. They cleave to an institution, not to the essence upon which that institution is built.”
Alderman, on the other hand, advanced the argument that if society were to allow full marriage equality, then it must follow that incestuous marriages would also be legalised: “If we truly believe in ‘full marriage equality’, why should not a father marry his daughter (assuming always the relationship is consensual) – or, for that matter, his son? Why should a mother not be able to marry her son – under the chupah? Why should not two lesbian-inclined sisters be able to marry each other, or two gay brothers? Or – not to be sexist – a brother and a sister?”
Bizarrely, Alderman claimed that people’s reaction to the above – that incestuous marriages shouldn’t be allowed – was “a shocking retreat into eugenics: that society must guard against the possibility of the birth (through incestuous unions) of children with severe learning difficulties or physical disabilities. This argument is, of course, straight out of the Nazi textbook.”
Goldstein, on the other hand, concluded that “It is because of my belief in progressive revelation and my belief that God wishes to sanctify love, commitment, sharing of values and ethics in a monogamous relationship, that I fully endorse the redefinition of the institution of marriage in Law to include gay and lesbian couples.”
Co-convenor of Jewish LGBT forum Keshet UK, Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, told PinkNews.co.uk: “As human beings we are all made in the image of God, and have the right to be treated equally in the sight of God and the community. While civil partnerships give lesbian and gay couples the legal rights previously denied to them, barring access to a religious ceremony is clearly discriminatory. Genesis 2:18 records God as saying ‘It is not good that a person should be alone’.
“Progressive Judaism,” she added “understands that God’s recognition of the human need to find a partner with which to build a home and create a family extends to same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. We cannot and will not deny them the religious affirmation of blessing their unions before God.”