9 Dec 2011
The Australian Jewish News Sydney edition
Mixed reaction to marriage policy
AUSTRALIAN Labor’s adoption of same-sex marriage as party policy at its conference last weekend has elicited a mix of reactions from the Jewish community.
The resolution passed with the caveat that Labor MPS would be allowed a conscience vote on the issue, which may make it difficult for the legislation to pass when it is brought before the House.
Scott Whitmont, who with partner Christopher Whitmont-stein was part of the first Australian faithsanctioned same-sex commitment ceremony at Emanuel Synagogue in September 2008, said the resolution was still a positive one.
“I think that any step that moves us towards recognition of the basic human right of allowing same-sex couples to have the same legal recognition as heterosexual couples, is a good thing,” he said.
J4ME (Jews for Marriage Equality) founder and Dayenu president Roy Freeman attended an equal marriage rally on Saturday, timed to coincide with the debate.
“There was an amazing atmosphere at the rally, with the largest turn-out of any marriage rally so far,” he said. “There was a real sense of achievement, but also of frustration with the conscience vote decision. The Labor Party have given with one hand, but taken away with the other.”
Union for Progressive Judaism executive director Steve Denenberg said there was no reason for Australian law to limit or discriminate against the civil or legal rights of any individual or group.
“The UPJ together with the members of the Moetzah, the Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, Asia and New Zealand, support marriage equality under Australian law and welcome the decision of the Australian Labor Party to do the same,” he said.
The Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia (ORA) continues to oppose any change in legislation.
In a statement, the ORA said it intended no discrimination towards the gay community, but wished to uphold the sanctity of marriage.
“The institution of marriage and family life, as defined and practised for thousands of years as between a man and a woman, a father and a mother, respectively, is far too important and essential to the bedrock of society and civilisation as we know it to be undermined by those who presume to redefine its essence,” ORA said.