Statement On Marriage Equality to the Parliament of Australia by the Masorti Beit Din of Australasia

[Original media release here]

The following is a statement issued by the Masorti Beit Din to Members of the Australian Parliament on the question of marriage equality.

For further information please contact Rabbi Adam Stein on 0422 674 455 or by email at rabbistein@kehilatnitzan.org.au

Statement On Marriage Equality
to the Parliament of Australia
by the Masorti Beit Din of Australasia

Marriage Equality is an issue which has been addressed in different ways in a number of English speaking countries (and beyond) over the last couple of years. Ireland approached it as a constitutional issue while both the New Zealand and United Kingdom parliaments legislated on it. In the United States of America, the Supreme Court recently declared same-sex legal in all 50 states.

The Masorti Beit Din is guided in its deliberations by the Rabbinical Assembly1’s
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS). In December 2006, the CLJS adopted
a responsum entitled “Homosexuality, Human Dignity and Halakhah”2 which states that
rabbinic prohibitions banning gay and lesbian intimate acts “are superseded based upon
the Talmudic principle of kvod habriot, our obligation to preserve the human dignity of all
people (p19).”

The responsum also “normalizes the status of gay and lesbian Jews in the Jewish community,” and declares “stable, committed, Jewish relationships to be as necessary and beneficial for homosexuals and their families as they are for heterosexuals (p19).”

Subsequently, in Spring 2012, the CLJS adopted an addendum entitled “Rituals And Documents Of Marriage And Divorce For Same-Sex Couples.”3 This document states “we are convinced that the nomenclature of gay marriage and divorce should be equal and clearly stated as such, not obscured in ambiguous language (p3).”

This Beit Din, cognizant of the above documents and precedents, calls on the Australian Parliament to legislate for Marriage Equality.

We base our call not only on the above CLJS decisions but upon the following principles:

  1. The Hebrew Bible tells us that we are all created in the Image of G-d. G-d does not distinguish between heterosexuals and homosexuals.
  2. One of the gifts G-d has placed in the world is love. G-d did not discriminate between the love experienced by people who are heterosexual and those who are homosexual

Much of the opposition to monogamous homosexual relationships is based on the assumption that it is a lifestyle choice. It was not that long ago that homosexuality carried a diagnostic category as a mental illness (the American Psychiatric Association removed it by a vote of the APA membership, and homosexuality was no longer listed in the seventh edition of DSM-II, issued in 1974).

Judaism has never seen the role of sexual intercourse as only for procreation. Judaism has seen it also as a way in which a loving relationship can be expressed between two individuals.

The Beit Din rejects the spurious argument advanced by some who oppose marriage equality that the best environment in which to raise children is one where there is one father and one mother. Rather the Beit Din sees the best environment being one in which the child is raised in a loving, caring environment which may be with either one or two parents, of either or both genders.

The current debate in Australia regards the civil and government recognition of same sex marriages. We see no reason to oppose such legislation. Rather, we encourage all Jews who care about respect and dignity for everyone in Australian society to support marriage equality.

The Jewish community, and the broader Australian community, should be aware that the rabbis and other communal leaders who oppose marriage equality DO NOT represent the whole Jewish community, nor probably even a majority of it .

We are happy to use values and principles drawn from Jewish text, law, and tradition, and well as proven research, to support the basic rights and dignity of fellow Australians.

Dated 03 July, 2015

Masorti Beit Din of Australasia
Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, DD, DMin, FRSA, MPH, BCom, BCC- Chair
Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, JD, MHL- Masorti@Emanuel, Sydney
Rabbi Adam Stein, MARS, MAEd- Kehilat Nitzan, Melbourne

The Beit Din is the Rabbinic/Ecclesiastical Court for Masorti Judaism in Australia and New Zealand

1 The Rabbinical Assembly is the international association of Conservative/Masorti rabbis.
2 www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/teshuvot/20052010/dorff_nevins_reisner_dignity.pdf, or http://tinyurl.com/pcrpw23, accessed 12 June 2015.
3 www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/teshuvot/2011-2020/same-sex-marriage-and-divorce-appendix.pdf, http://tinyurl.com/cmsgpk6, accessed 12 June 2015.

MR: Response to Orthodox Rabbis opposition to same-sex marriage

Aleph Melbourne Media Release
Response to Orthodox Rabbis opposition to same-sex marriage

October 30 2013

Today the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, the Rabbinical Council of NSW and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria issued a joint statement reiterating their previous opposition to same-sex marriage.  This was done in response to legislation passed in the Australian Capital Territory last week allowing same-sex marriage to be performed in the territory.

Aleph Melbourne expresses strong opposition to religious leaders interfering in matters of civil law.  Further we request Orthodox Jewish Rabbis stop hindering the efforts to break down legal discrimination faced by couples excluded from marriage on the grounds of gender.

Co-convenor Michael Barnett said: “Whilst Orthodox Rabbis have responsibility to uphold their religious laws, they should be reminded that these responsibilities do not extend into civil law”.

Barnett added “Australia is a secular country that grants its citizens the right to both freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  There is no room in our society for Orthodox Jewish rabbis to impose their uncompromising values on the rest of Australian society.  If they don’t want a same-sex marriage, then they don’t have to have one, as rewarding as they can be”.

Religious leaders can rest assured that there is no legislation in force that will require them to solemnise any marriage against their will, including same-sex marriages, and there is no intention for such legislation to be passed.

Aleph Melbourne continues to praise the Australian Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities’ leadership for their strong and continued support of marriage equality at the federal level.

Enquiries:
Michael Barnett / 0417-595-541

ENDS.

UK: Jewish Masorti movement hints it might endorse same-sex marriage in synagogues | PinkNews.co.uk

UK: Jewish Masorti movement hints it might endorse same-sex marriage in synagogues | PinkNews.co.uk.

AJN Letters: Michael Barnett clarifies comment in Masorti article – June 15 2012

15 June 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition

Letters to the editor should be no more than 250 words and may be edited for length and content. Only letters sent to letters@jewishnews.net.au will be considered for publication. Please supply an address and daytime phone number for verification.


Setting the record straight

I WOULD like to note that in the article on Australian Masorti support for same-sex marriage (AJN 08/06), my reference to commitment ceremonies for heterosexual couples was printed out of context.

It was submitted to the paper by way of comparison, in relation to Progressive Judaism in Australia currently offering same-sex Jewish couples a commitment ceremony, but denying this option to those heterosexual couples who would like religious recognition of their relationship but who do not want to get married.

MICHAEL BARNETT
Ashwood, Vic

Australian Masorti welcomes same-sex ceremony guidelines | AJN

8 Jun 2012
The Australian Jewish News Melbourne edition
PETER KOHN

Australian Masorti welcomes same-sex ceremony guidelines

AUSTRALIAN Masorti rabbis and Jewish communal figures have welcomed Conservative Judaism’s decision to issue guidelines for its rabbis to conduct same-sex commitment ceremonies.

But groups representing the Jewish Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (GLBTI) communities, while endorsing the move, noted it fell short of a fully fledged gay chuppah. Gay marriage is not legal in Australia.

The Rabbinical Assembly (RA), the American organisation for Conservative (Masorti) rabbis, voted last week in favour of issuing the rules under which its rabbis can conduct these ceremonies.

It follows the RA’s decision six years ago to allow its rabbis to officiate at same-sex ceremonies if they wished.

The RA has published two sets of guidelines, for ceremonies that more closely resemble a marriage, and for those that are more distinct from marriage.

Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins of Emanuel Synagogue in Sydney, who has officiated at a same-sex commitment ceremony in Australia, welcomed the decision “which supports civil rights and equal rights for all Jews, regardless of their sexual orientation”.

Rabbi Adam Stein of Kehilat Nitzan in Melbourne said he was glad his movement approved same-sex ceremonies in 2006 and that it has now issued guidelines, but he would need to consult with Nitzan’s board before conducting such a ceremony. John Rosenberg, a founder of Kehilat Nitzan, told The AJN the guidelines are a positive move. “Masorti Judaism strongly supports inclusion and I think this is a wonderful move towards inclusion for all members of our community. But Rabbi Stein will need to provide guidance for the congregation in terms of what we do.”

Michael Barnett, convenor of GLBTI support group Aleph Melbourne, welcomed the guidelines, but called for a commitment ceremony to be made available to heterosexual couples. “Separate is not equal. With the Conservative Jewish movement creating a special class of religious marriage ceremony for same-sex couples, despite the positive message given by the recognition of these relationships, they are sending the message that the relationships between same-sex couples are second class and not equal to that of heterosexual couples.”

In Sydney, GLBTI support group Dayenu’s acting president, Kim Gotlieb, saw it as “a wonderful step forward in legitimising the loving bond and commitment that many same-sex couples feel for one another”, but noted that “kedushin” – the concept of a sanctified Jewish marriage – continues to be excluded from the ceremony. “However, the Masorti and Progressive synagogues in this country are poised to provide gay marriage, whenever the groundswell of public support manages to convince our politicians to move into line with prevailing international trends.”


[ Clarification: the reference to commitment ceremonies for heterosexual couples was printed out of context. It was submitted to the paper by way of comparison, in relation to Progressive Judaism in Australia currently offering same-sex Jewish couples a commitment ceremony, but denying this option to those heterosexual couples who would like religious recognition of their relationship but who do not want to get married.  — Michael Barnett ]