30 Mar 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
Differing views on marriage inquiry
COMMUNAL organisations representing Orthodox and Progressive Jews are at odds in their submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into gay marriage.
Christopher Whitmont-Stein and Scott Whitmont were the first same-sex couple in Australia to have a commitment ceremony in a shul. In its submission, the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) has called for same-sex marriage to be introduced in Australia.
The UPJ quoted biblical references in support of a universal right to marriage, which it believes the Senate probe should adopt.
But a submission to be made by the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA), representing Orthodox Jewry, will oppose amendment of the Marriage Act.
Invoking the Book of Genesis, the UPJ submission, made to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010, stated that “all people are made b’tselem Elohim, in the image of God, and each person should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
“The UPJ therefore condemns all forms of homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation. There is no justification for such abuse and disrespect and it is essential that all perpetrators of homophobia are prosecuted and held responsible for such offensive comments, both in the eyes of society and before the law.”
The UPJ submission claimed legislative changes made in recent years to acknowledge same-sex partnerships have already helped to decrease discrimination in Australia’s legal system, but “these changes must be part of larger changes to make same-sex partnerships the equal of heterosexual partnerships”.
However, Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of ORA, told The AJN his organisation opposed the changes because they seek to alter the definition of marriage, and this will form the basis of ORA’S submission, to be made in the next few days.
“Judaism is against discrimination in all forms, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the position of Judaism, and indeed all Abrahamic faiths, on marriage is clear.
“The institution of marriage is fundamental in that it shapes the entire human race, and it is divinely mandated as being only between a man and a woman. It is an institution that dare not be tampered with. The invocation of biblical verses in support of same-sex marriage is simply a shameless distortion of biblical teaching and tradition,” Rabbi Gutnick said.
The Senate last month launched its inquiry into marriage equality after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-young introduced a private senator’s bill to amend the 1961 Marriage Act to embrace same-sex marriages.
The Senate inquiry will take submissions until April 2 and will report on its findings in June this year.