24 April 2013
“The mark of an enlightened society is the ability to allow all its members to live in a cultural climate free from any form of harassment or discrimination. The “No to Homophobia” campaign, by promoting an environment of respect and inclusiveness, seeks to ensure that the GLBTI members of our community can do so.”
Nina Bassat AM
JCCV- organisational partner in the “No to Homophobia Campaign‘
[The relevant part of the conversation runs from 4:58 to 5:52]
“It wasn’t worthwhile voting on it this time because there was an automatic majority against it.” — Michael Danby; Apr 14 2013
ABC Radio National – The Religion Report
- Broadcast: Wednesday 19 May 1999 8:30AM (view full episode)
The Religion Report 19th May, 1999
John Cleary: Today is about fundamental change, from Melbourne to Romania.
But first to the pressure of change closer to home, and the issue of homosexuality in religion is once again the cause of a deepening split, this time in the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria.
Orthodox members of the Council are maintaining their rage over moves by a gay Jewish organisation called ALEPH Melbourne, to join. While ALEPH has so far failed in its bid to be an affiliate member, there are renewed threats from Orthodox groups that they’ll quit in protest is ALEPH is accepted.
And today, a provocative invitation for the JCCV, (Joint Communities Council) President, Dr Phillip Bliss, to step down over his very support of ALEPH.
Toni Hassan spoke to Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky and the head of ALEPH, Michael Barnett, and prepared this report.
Ronald Lubofsky: The JCCV was very seriously threatened by this. There are a number of organisations that would have possibly seceded from the board had this been successful.
Michael Barnett: These are the sorts of attitudes that really do the most damage to people who are having troubles dealing with their sexuality. That’s why we have such a high youth suicide rate.
Ronald Lubofsky: There are certain things which they don’t like talking about, but they have done now because it’s forced into the open and is sort of they want to enter into Jewish schools, into sex education. And this is something which will ring the alarm bells with Jewish parents.
Michael Barnett: There’s nothing whatsoever in our organisation’s objectives or ideals to say that we are going to infiltrate or we’re going to convert or we’re going to subvert or whatever. We’re just a very straightforward support group and social organisation, we don’t have a hidden agenda.
Toni Hasssan: Some of the high emotion echoed at a recent meeting of the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria. On one side is ALEPH Melbourne, a group whose objective is to provide assistance, support and companionship for gay and bisexual Jewish men. Michael Barnett is the group’s President.
Michael Barnett: The objection to our application was that a homosexual or gay organisation is contravening Jewish law because homosexual practice is one of the forbidden acts in Jewish law. In Leviticus 18, 22 it says –
Toni Hasssan: Well that’s commonly argued. How do you get around that?
Michael Barnett: It’s not an issue for me. I mean I’m not a religious Jew and if I was, it wouldn’t bother me either way I don’t think, because that’s me as a person doing what I want to do. But that doesn’t come in to our organisation. Our organisation isn’t set up for the practice of homosexuality, it’s for the support of homosexuals, which is a slightly different issue, very subtle.
Toni Hasssan: And do you think the Rabbis, the conservative Rabbis who rejected your proposal, do not see that distinction?
Michael Barnett: Oh well, they may see it, but they choose to ignore it I believe. They are very stubborn people, they stick to the letter of their law and it may be a guise for homophobia, it may not be. But either way it has no bearing on the JCCV, it’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned, or our members are concerned.
Toni Hasssan: Ronald Lubofsky is Rabbi Emeritus at the St Kilda Synagogue. For him the inclusion of ALEPH amounts to tampering with the Ten Commandments.
Ronald Lubofsky: The core of the philosophy, the religious philosophy, the political philosophy of being Jewish, is in the written word. The Christians call it the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. Some would reduce it to the Ten Commandments etc. and that excludes the notion of homosexuality, and as a consequence it’s a contradiction in terms. You simply cannot consider the two ideals as being compatible. So true enough, the members of this group are Jewish and it may well be that they are secular in their intent, but I’m afraid that as a group, as an organisation, they cannot claim parity as individuals absolutely. This is a point which I and others have made, that Jewish gay people, lesbian people, they can join synagogues, they can join the organisations which are represented under the umbrella of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, they can be the Presidents of those organisations, but as an organisation, as an ideology, they’re not compatible.
Toni Hasssan: Doesn’t the JCCV, the Council in Victoria, recognise sporting organisations, many voluntary organisations of that nature?
Ronald Lubofsky: Yes, what you’re saying in actual fact is a point of view which many espouse, but there is simply no comparison. You’re talking here of fundamentals of life, you’re not dealing here with a sporting organisation where people make a choice to do this or to do that. These are individuals who do not produce families, these are individuals who perform sexually in a way which is aberrant, to say the least, with regard to Judaism. It is something which runs counter to the fundamentals of Judaism, that is the family unit. It’s not simply playing a sport.
Toni Hasssan: What’s really got under the noses of Orthodox groups affiliated with the Jewish Communities Council of Victoria is the public support given to ALEPH Melbourne by the Council’s President, Dr Phillip Bliss. Without his support, the matter wouldn’t not have seen the light of day. Rabbi Lubofsky.
Ronald Lubofsky: If he followed the Westminster rules, he should resign, because it was something that he espoused, it was a motion that he himself moved. He now indicates he’s prepared to take it further. He’s going to endanger this organisation as a result of his monocular vision.
Toni Hasssan: Are you calling on him to resign?
Ronald Lubofsky: No, I’m not, I’m just saying that he should. That would be a normal procedure in any other organisation. If there’s something which the President wants his organisation to follow and he is prepared to go as far as he was, knowing how controversial the whole thing was, and that it could well have his organisation disintegrate, and he was roundly defeated under those circumstances I’m surprised that he’s still there.
John Cleary: Perhaps an issue for the attention of anti-discrimination bodies. Don’t know. That report from Toni Hasssan who’ll be back a little later in the program to talk with ABC Jerusalem correspondent Jim Gale about the religious influence in Monday’s General Elections.
As France becomes 14th country to approve same-sex marriage, Israel still lags behind
Despite a sorely divided public, violent protests and promises for a legal fight, France welcomes same-sex marriage. Meanwhile in Israel, civil marriage still proves elusive.
France became the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage on Tuesday after parliament approved a new law championed by President Francois Hollande. But it came at a high political price amid violent street protests and a rise in homophobic attacks.
Hollande’s “marriage for all” law is one of the biggest social reforms in France since his left-wing mentor and predecessor Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty in 1981, a move which also divided public opinion.
Lawmakers in the lower house National Assembly, where Hollande’s Socialists have an absolute majority, passed the bill by 331 votes to 225.
“Many French people will be proud this job is done,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament. “Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds.”
Yet the episode has proved costly for an already unpopular president. Critics said Hollande should focus instead on fixing the moribund economy while opponents of the law have demanded a referendum and protests against it descended into violence.
Opposition conservatives and centrists immediately appealed to the Constitutional Council, the country’s top court, to have it struck down.
The ruling body will now debate whether the law is constitutional. Hollande wants the bill to come into effect by May 25, with the first gay marriages anticipated in June.
The debate has been blamed for a spate of homophobic attacks, including the beating of a 24-year-old in the southern city of Nice on Saturday. Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned this week of “zero tolerance” for such violence.
Socialist and conservative lawmakers had come close to blows more than once during lengthy parliamentary debates on the law, which authorizes adoption and marriage but will not allow gay couples to use medically assisted procreation.
Opponents of the law attempted to unveil a banner in parliament calling for a referendum before being taken away by security.
“You are adding a crisis to a crisis. You are stirring up tensions and are lighting the fuse of homophobia,” Herve Mariton, a member of the opposition UMP party, told lawmakers ahead of the vote.
France, a mainly Catholic country, follows 13 other countries including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot.
In the United States, Washington D.C. and nine states have legalized same-sex marriage.
Unlike Mitterrand’s abolition of the death penalty, which most French people opposed at the time, polls showed more than half the country backed Hollande’s gay marriage law.
The gay community greeted the news with fanfare, with some equal rights groups dubbing April 23 the “Day of Love”. Meanwhile, opponents gathered outside parliament for fresh demonstrations.
The leader of the “anti” movement, a feisty female comedian who goes by her stage name Frigide Barjot, has vowed to continue protests that have already brought thousands to the streets. They will begin on May 5, the first anniversary of Hollande’s election.
Far from the same-sex chuppah
As yet another Western country says “I do” to gay marriage, same-sex wedding day in Israel is still far off. During coalition negotiations after the recent election, there were reports that Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party was trying to push civil marriage – as promised during the campaign – but ultimately, the issue was left off the table.
In Israel today, the religious establishment still has a monopoly over issues of marriage and divorce. To circumvent this, many Israeli citizens have a civil marriage overseas and then register it at Interior Ministry. But if they later decide to divorce, they usually must do so domestically, under the auspices of the religious courts.
Same-sex couples have access to the same loophole, thanks to a 2006 Supreme Court ruling. They too can get married abroad in a country where same-sex marriage is legal and then register with the Interior Ministry in Israel. Many have done so since the option became available while others customize their partnership by signing property or prenuptial agreements, or holding ceremonies that have no legal status.
Three times MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), chairman of the lobby for civil equality and pluralism in the Knesset, submitted bills in the Knesset seeking civil marriage, but each was blocked at an early stage.
In the arena of marriage equality, Israel lags well behind the rest of the Western world, said Horowitz, pointing out that the situation here is worse because there is no option, even for opposite-sex couples, for a civil marriage outside of the rabbinate.
“Israel must choose which group it’s in: that of Iran, Saudi Arabia and China or the group with France, Spain and New York,” he said. “Are we in the camp of darkness or the progressive camp?”
Australian Marriage Equality
Tuesday April 16th 2013
Marriage equality advocates are furious that Melbourne Ports MP, Michael Danby, has again refused to declare unconditional support for the issue.
In a letter to constituents Mr Danby – a Labor MP who has a conscience vote on the issue – has said he will not vote for same-sex marriage until the Coalition allows a conscience vote.
Spokesperson for Melbourne Ports for Marriage Equality, Tony Pitman, said Mr Danby’s position is absurd.
“Michael Danby’s decision not to vote for marriage equality until Coalition members are given a free vote means he’s effectively taking orders from Tony Abbott.”
“Melbourne Ports voters should be very angry that their local MP is showing no leadership on this issue and is again side-stepping it.”
“Quite simply, he’s not representing the views of the vast majority of his electorate.”
Mr Danby was absent from the parliamentary vote on marriage equality in August last year, something which it has taken him almost nine months to explain despite repeated requests to do so from constituents.
Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said Mr Danby is playing politics with an issue that is about people’s lives.
“Mr Danby should not be playing political games with an issue that directly affects many families in Melbourne Ports.”
“Making his vote conditional on something another party does shows a deep deficit of moral courage and leadership.”
“Either he is prepared to vote for marriage equality when it is next proposed or he is not.”
Mr Danby’s Liberal challenger in Melbourne Ports is Kevin Eckendahl who is a supporter of both marriage equality and a Liberal conscience vote on the issue.
In his letter to constituents Mr Danby wrote,
“I abstained from the vote on that bill (in August last year) because I did not think it fair that half the Parliament – the Labor Party – had a a free vote, while the other half – the Coalition parties – were ordered by the Leader Mr Abbott to vote against the bill. My position is that when the Parliament has a genuine free vote on a marriage equality bill…I will support such a bill.”
For more information contact Tony Pitman on 0431 150 788 or Rodney Croome on 0409 010 668.