In its official response to the government consultation on equal marriage, the office of the Chief Rabbi has submitted that Jewish Law prohibited ‘the practice of homosexuality,’ and argues against all same-sex unions, both civil partnerships and marriage.
The consultation, which closed last Thursday, was aimed at soliciting responses from people in England and Wales as to how (rather than whether) to implement equal marriage for gay couples, and also asked if religious ceremonies for gay couples must continue to be disallowed.
While conservative religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, and the Church of England, have expressed strong opposition to the move, liberal religious factions, such as Liberal and Reform Judaism, the Unitarians and the Quakers, in addition to dissenting voices from the Church of England, have argued strongly both for equal civil marriage and for the right to hold religious ceremonies for gay couples.
The document submitted by the London Beth Din (Court of the Chief Rabbi) in response to the government consultation, seen by PinkNews.co.uk, begins by saying that marriage is, ‘by definition in Jewish (Biblical) Law… the union of a male and a female.’ The Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sachs will have a vote on the legislation as a cross-bench life peer in the House of Lords.
It adds: “While Judaism teaches respect for others and condemns all types of discrimination, we oppose a change to the definition of marriage that includes same-sex relationships. Jewish (Biblical) Law prohibits the practice of homosexuality. It therefore follows that same-sex unions are against Jewish Law.”
On why it disagrees with a gender-neutral understanding of marriage, the statement by the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue (of London), echoing the recent submission by the Church of England, submits: “Our understanding of marriage from time immemorial has been that of a union between a man and a woman. Any attempt to redefine this sacred institution would be to undermine the concept of marriage.”
What is perhaps most striking in the document is that the Beth Din also opposes civil partnerships for gay couples. So, the submission argues against all forms of religious blessings for same-sex couples.
“Furthermore,” the document adds, “we are concerned that if the government were to introduce same-sex marriage through a civil ceremony, any attempt to exclude the possibility of a religious ceremony for such couples, would be subject to challenge to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds of discrimination.”
Just a fortnight ago, a prominent Rabbi, Jonathan Romain, chastised those opposed to equal marriage on religious grounds on adopting a ‘pick and mix’ approach to the scriptures, putting the opposition on par with endorsing slavery or stoning.