Executive Council of Australian Jewry adopts policy on Same Sex civil marriage

Passed unanimously at the ECAJ Annual Conference in Melbourne on Sunday November 26 2017.

Add a new Policy Item 54 as follows:

  1.   Same Sex civil marriage

This Council:

54.1 NOTES the high response rate to the survey on same sex marriage conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2017, participation in which was entirely voluntary;

54.2 NOTES FURTHER that there was a strong majority in favour of same sex marriage being recognised in Australia’s civil law;

54.3 RECOGNISES that the survey did not relate in any way to religious marriages;

54.4 CALLS ON the Federal government to:

  1. enact an amendment to the civil law definition of marriage in the Marriage Act as soon as is practicable in order to give effect to the clear result of the survey;

  2. ensure that members of the clergy will continue to have the right to refuse to perform or participate in any marriage ceremony at their discretion, as is provided for at present under section 47 of the Marriage Act;

  3. ensure that religious institutions and religious schools will continue to have the same rights they currently enjoy under the law to practice, teach and preach their religious beliefs, including their beliefs about the institution of marriage being between a man and a woman; and

  4. ensure that parents and legal guardians will continue to have the same freedoms they currently enjoy to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

54.5 REJECTS any proposal that would permit businesses to refuse to provide goods, services and facilities on the basis that these are to be used in connection with a same-sex marriage ceremony; and

54.6 AFFIRMS that in matters of ordinary trade and commerce, as distinct from matters of religious practice and belief, all people are entitled to be protected from adverse discriminatory treatment on the basis of their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

 

 

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the Yes result to the “Same-Sex Marriage” postal survey

Aleph Melbourne welcomes the result of the “Same-Sex Marriage” Postal Survey and looks forward to seeing marriage equality enacted under law in Australia without additional restrictions or degradation of dignity to LGBTIQ people.

We acknowledge that the mechanism the government used to gauge the sentiment of the population was unnecessary and hurtful to LGBTIQ people and hoped that the government would have simply voted on the legislation up-front, as they are elected to do.

We commend the Jewish Community Council of Victoria for their positive contribution to the welfare of LGBTIQ people and look forward to their further support of vulnerable members of the community over coming days and weeks.  We also commend the support from the growing number of congregations and community organisations that have been instrumental in advocating for equality, both the stalwarts and the newly supportive.

It is our hope that before long we will be seeing members of the Jewish community in gender-diverse and same-sex relationships celebrating their marriages, with the affirmation of their families, friends and community.  We know that such inclusion and celebration will bring families together, reduce the levels of mental health problems in young people and even save lives.

Lastly, we are deeply grateful to those in the community, and also to those beyond, who voted Yes.  Whilst the temptation to stick to old traditions may be enticing, the prospect of making new traditions will be incredibly rewarding, beyond expectations.  Thank you.

JCCV Statement on Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite Result

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted that the same sex marriage plebiscite is now completed and that the people of Australia have shown that they are clearly in support of equality. We hope that Parliament moves quickly to pass legislation that reflects the outcome of the plebiscite and the spirit of the message inherent within in it – support for equal rights, empathy and respect. We expect that religious freedoms will be protected, and equally that current protections against discrimination and intolerance are not watered down.

President of the JCCV, Jennifer Huppert stated, “We are concerned that the LGBTIQ members of our community and their families may face mental health concerns over the coming weeks, as the proposed same sex marriage Bills are debated. We again call for all debate to be respectful, and that anyone with or seeing others facing mental health challenges seek expert advice or support, such as through the LGBTI Switchboard, Beyond Blue, Headspace or Jewish Care Victoria. Service options and contact details can be found in the JCCV LGBTI Service Directory.”

Best regards,

David Marlow
Executive Director | Jewish Community Council of Victoria

An open response to Isi Leibler

This article originally appeared on The Slowly Boiled Frog.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

An open response to Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler is a frequent contributor to the Jerusalem Post. Sunday he writes: “Candidly speaking: Recent sexual controversies and upheavals.”

It causes me great discomfort when a fellow Jew expresses anti-gay rhetoric. Most of us have learned a thing or two from 6,000 years of oppression. Mr. Leibler has not. Leibler begins by telling us just how wonderful he is. After explaining that he is an octogenarian:

I am no prude and when, 50 years ago, it was fashionable to demonize homosexuals I never joined the pack. I always maintained that consensual sexual relations were a private matter, I never discriminated against gays or lesbians, and I unhesitatingly employed quite a few. And despite the strict halachic prohibitions, I maintain that if gay people wish to be observant, they should not be ostracized from communal religious participation.

This is what follows next:

At the same time, I oppose gays flaunting their sexuality (for example by participating in pride parades) or promoting their lifestyle as progressive while implicitly denigrating the traditional concept of a nuclear family. They should be free to live their lives as they deem fit and enjoy all civil rights extended to heterosexual couples. But I am not ready to concede that gay couples should be glorified, as they sometimes are on TV, for supposedly partaking in a superior alternative lifestyle. I feel that this encourages young people to experiment unnecessarily with their own sexuality.

I scarcely know where to begin but I will start with the absolute certainty that a sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Suggesting otherwise is an appeal to stereotype. It is an expression of bigotry. I am a retired CEO. My late partner was an executive with American Media. Our “lifestyle” had nothing to do with our sexual orientation. Rather, it reflected our business interests and most of our friends were straight (or at least they claimed to be).

I have no idea whatsoever what Mr. Leibler thinks is denigrating the nuclear family at the hands of dastardly gay people. He is not specific. However, what is obviously the most offensive and intellectually dishonest part of this is the notion that sexual orientation can be influenced by others or through experimentation.

It would help if Mr. Leibler knew the scientific fact that sexual orientation is a continuum with homosexual and heterosexual at the extreme ends. Nothing is going to change one’s positioning along the scale with the exception of a small amount of natural fluidity. People do not “experiment” with their sexual orientation and even if they did, they would still end up in the same place. Those around the middle might cross the 50-yard-line but not to experiment. They are satisfying a temporal attraction. Ultimately that is why all of those pray-away-the-gay enterprises have been such dismal failures. No one ever really changes.

Furthermore, Mr. Leibler does not define what he means by “glorified.” I don’t know what television he watches but in this country we see (all too few) gay couples. At best they are truthfully portrayed as the intellectual and moral equals of heterosexual couples. Again, being gay is not an alternative lifestyle. Then Mr. Leibler goes on a tear about same-sex marriage:

This brings me to the same-sex marriage issue, which has created such a global upheaval. The continuity of mankind depends on male-female intercourse. Marriage implies a heterosexual union and to religious people it is a sacred institution.

While I fully support the legal system providing gay couples with rights identical to those of a heterosexual union, surely appropriate commitment ceremonies can be devised that do not imply bracketing such unions in the same category as traditional marriages.

Jewish non-Orthodox bodies like the Conservative and Reform movements should at most be neutral on this issue, but unfortunately, they are at the forefront of calling for gay unions to be defined as traditional marriages.

Let’s get the intercourse out of the way immediately. I am not sure but perhaps Mr. Leibler believes that when gays marry, that deprives society of an otherwise heterosexual spouse (as well as his or her sexual activities to crank out children). If that is the case then Leibler is beyond the point of redemption. Moreover, marriage might be sacred to religious people which is why those same people marry in their synagogue. To others it is a civil construct.

I am not familiar with Israeli law but in this country marriage is a legal construct that may, or may not be, a religious ritual. In this country we have also experimented with the concept of separate but equal which is what Leibler is essentially advocating. Great legal minds came to the conclusion that separate but equal is inherently unequal. There is no practical reason for gay couples to have a different outcome to being wed. Calling it marriage is not only the correct term but it has no effect whatsoever on so-called traditional marriage. If Mr. Leibler truly supports equal rights for gay couples as he claims then he should vigorously support marriage equality.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of Mr. Leibler. He has the the ability to discuss these matters with conservative and reform rabbis who can explain their reasons for supporting marriage equality.

The gay marriage debate has descended into bullying and vilifying anyone who dares to defend traditional beliefs. But objecting to gay marriage is neither discriminatory nor homophobic. The slandering of all who oppose gay marriage has descended into a poisonous hate fest.

Really? It seems to me that we must entertain bullshit about lifestyles and the pernicious ability of gay people to turn straight youth gay. Then, on top of that, another layer of manure is spread in the form of the preposterous notion that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on so-called traditional marriage — all engineered to make gay people unequal.

Does Mr. Leibler have so much as a clue about the bigotry inherent in demeaning gay people for “flaunting their life style?” We are deeply offended and rightfully so. If Leibler wants less hate then he can ratchet down his homophobia and the reaction will recede accordingly. If he wants less poison in the environment then he should turn off his spigot. And then he can cease feigning victimization as a tactic to gain traction.

The blatant bigotry continues:

The just campaign to ensure equal social and civic rights for gays has succeeded beyond all expectations. But it was never intended to promote a gay lifestyle at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family. I do not endorse the belief that sexuality is fluid. Nor would I condone the silencing of traditional and religious values, which consider marriage between man and wife to be uniquely sacred.

“… at the expense of heterosexuality and the nuclear family” and he ponders why that is considered bigoted hate speech. And let’s not imply that marriage equality has an effect on the religious practices of anyone. That is just dishonest nonsense.

You can continue to read Leibler’s diatribe at the link above. I have had more than I care to have.

Coalition for Marriage’s Karina Okotel thumbs her nose at Executive Council of Australian Jewry

On the “Same Sex Marriage Debate” episode of Q&A (Monday October 23 2017) Karina Okotel from the Coalition for Marriage dismissed claims from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry:

TONY JONES
I’m going to bring in Karina here, because obviously you’re concerned about these areas precisely.

KARINA OKOTEL
The short answer to your question is that if same-sex marriage is legalised, no, Christian schools will not be immune from the consequences that flow from that. And we’ve seen that just last week, when Theresa May in the UK said that one of her greatest achievements in her parliamentary career was legalising same-sex marriage. And the next step now is to ensure that there is LGBTI sex education in all schools – not just government schools, all schools.

TONY JONES
OK, Magda.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
I actually… You said fact-check. I did fact-check a couple of the claims that you’ve made. One of them was about the guy who’s the prominent guy from Canada for the No campaign. And he said it’s been sort of put forward that because he wouldn’t accept teachings about gender and sex education, he was suing the school.
He had a six-year-long battle going on and his claims, his list of claims, included things like he didn’t want his children to be exposed to what he called false teachings, which meant the mere idea that there were other sets of values that existed, anything to do with the environment, to do with astrology, which is in newspapers everywhere, and wizards, meaning the kids couldn’t discuss… He wanted to be informed. It was not because of a difference of views, it was…it was unworkable.
And one more thing – the other one I want… You mentioned the Jewish school in London. I fact-checked that because I actually went to the site of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and they said that is inaccurate. If you want to tell the Jews how to run Jewish schools – because we’re talking about freedom of religion – it seems to me…

TONY JONES
Just to confirm, this is a story about a Jewish school in the UK and the suggestion or allegation that it was going to be forced to shut down because they were refusing to teach gender diversity?

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
And I’m not saying that’s inaccurate. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry is saying that that’s inaccurate.

TONY JONES
We’ll quickly throw that to Karina.

KARINA OKOTEL
The council are the only ones who say that that’s inaccurate. Everyone else says that it is accurate…

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
They’re the peak body. They’re the peak body.

KARINA OKOTEL
The reports are on the internet. If you don’t believe that it’s true…

(LAUGHTER)

KARINA OKOTEL
..have a look at the very reports that are provided by the inspectorate itself.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
So, you don’t accept the word of the peak body of Australian Jewry?

KARINA OKOTEL
It’s inaccurate to say that they didn’t face consequences as a result. The reality is that the inspector came, inspected the school and they failed inspections after same-sex marriage was legalised.

TONY JONES
I’m going to draw a line. People can fact-check…

KARINA OKOTEL
Please fact-check it. I would ask people to fact-check it.

TONY JONES
I’d expect the fact-checkers will fact-check it.

MAGDA SZUBANSKI
I did fact-check. The Jews fact-checked it. But they don’t know, apparently.

(LAUGHTER)

KARINA OKOTEL
They’re the only body that say that.

Jewish submissions to the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill

Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill

All submissions

6 Council of Progressive Rabbis and the Union for Progressive Judaism (PDF 2422 KB) [backup copy]
6.1 Supplementary to submission 6 (PDF 3073 KB)  [backup copy]
128 Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand (PDF 68 KB) [backup copy]
131 Rabbinical Council of NSW (PDF 131 KB) [backup copy]
133 Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) & Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) (PDF 33 KB) [backup copy]

ADC responds to Bill Leak’s “Waffen-SSM” cartoon

Out in Perth has published a response from the Anti-Defamation Commission in response to Bill Leak’s “Waffen-SSM” cartoon:

Dr Dvir Abramovich, Chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) said he understood why cartoonists are drawn to the Nazi analogy but described the comparison as repulsive.

The ADC describes itself as one of Australia’s leading civil and human rights organisations. The Australian Jewish community organisation aims to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.

“I recognise how irresistible the Nazi analogy is for cartoonists looking to generate shock and headlines and grab attention. But no matter how strong Leak’s objections to marriage equality advocates, to compare them to the Waffen SS, part of Hitler’s demonic regime and responsible for the murder of millions, only adds to the cynical debasement, twisting and abusing of the Holocaust so prevalent today.” Dr Abramovich said.

“To  draw such repulsive equations is deeply offensive, shows a gross  lack of understanding of the historical truth, and only fans the flames of hatred and demonisation of the LGBTI community. It also insults the memory of the victims, which included gay people, as well as hurts the survivors and all those who fought valiantly against the Nazis in WWII.

“Such analogies are totally unacceptable, even in satirical cartoons,  and only serve to coarsen public debate. They  have no place in Australia’s civil discourse and must be repudiated.” Dr Abramovich concluded.

This is the original cartoon:
20160921-the-australian-bill-leak-waffen-ssm

ECAJ responds to Bill Leak’s “Waffen-SSM” cartoon

The Australian has published a letter from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in their September 22 letters column, in response to Bill Leak’s “Waffen-SSM” cartoon:

I refer to Bill Leak’s cartoon (“Waffen SSM”, 21/9). It can be readily accepted that hyperbole is a stock in trade of any cartoonist, and Leak is entitled to give satirical expression to his opinion that certain advocates of same-sex marriage are intolerant to any contrary point of view. Yet to compare them to Nazi SS divisions does little credit to the point he was presumably trying to make.

To liken any advocate of SSM to the perpetrators of mass murder and cruelty in the Nazi era is an inversion of history. In Nazi Germany, about 100,000 suspected homosexuals were arrested and up to 15,000 of them were interned in concentration camps where many were killed.

As a political cartoonist, it is Leak’s job to be provocative and controversial, but this was not his best work.

Peter Wertheim, Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Sydney, NSW

This is the original cartoon:
20160921-the-australian-bill-leak-waffen-ssm

Former Bialik College student marries her same-sex partner

Today I received a copy of the Bialik College newsletter Shelanu (Issue 4, Sep 2015).  On the back page is a list of Births, Engagements and Marriages.  Ever hopeful, my eye was caught by the marriage announcement of 2004 student Deborah Konopnicki to Amy Hespe.  Ground breaking news.  Mazal Tov!

Bialik Shelanu - Sep 2015 - Deborah Konopnicki married to Amy Hespe

To the best of my knowledge Deborah is the first female past student of Bialik College to marry a same-sex partner and the first to be announced in the school newsletter.  As a past student of Bialik College myself (1981-83) I am probably the first (male) past student of the school to marry a same-sex partner, having travelled to New Zealand in January 2014 to undertake the formalities.**

Aleph Melbourne wishes Deborah and Amy many years of happiness together (alongside all the other Bialik married couples).  Hopefully our marriages to our same-sex partners can be solemnised and/or recognised under Australian law sooner than later.

MB.

** We’ll gladly acknowledge as first any former student of Bialik College who has earlier married a same-sex or gender-diverse partner.