Muffti puts forth a question to the jewlicious community: should jews care (on religious grounds) about whether or not diaspora governments legalize gay marriage? In contrast to the States, where the Republicans are seeking a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Canada is putting forth legislation that would officially recognize gay marriage. Interestingly, however, prominent Jews have been taking public stands vocalizing their opinions on the matter. Montreal’s Rabbi Poupko, for example, claims:

I wonder why Orthodox Judaism is not more vocal in this matter. I assume that everybody thinks it doesn’t affect us…The Orthodox are usually more reserved — not to make waves, not to be in the limelight — and they are reluctant to speak to the press. But I think they should be much more vocal. Otherwise, it gives the world a completely wrong picture of what Judaism is about. The public should know that Judaism is completely opposed to same-sex marriage

Judaism’s relationship with homosexuality seems to stem from two verses in (not surprisingly) Leviticus:

You shall not lie with man as one lies with a women; this is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)

If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they should surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:13)

The story in Genesis of the angels in Sodom makes a vague connection as well. The men of Sodom call for Lot to release the strangers so that they might be gang-raped, err, ‘known’. The men of Sodom are subsequently blinded and then destroyed by God’s wrath. Rabbi Novak of the University of Toronto sums up the position clearly:

Same-sex marriage is something that the Jewish tradition regards as unacceptable

As did Montreal’s Rabbi Poupko (in a 1999 interview with the Peak:

From an Orthodox standpoint, homosexual marriage is rejected by Jewish law, just as eating pork is, just as working on the Sabbath is. It is just the law, it is against the law, it is prohibited.

Fair enough; but Poupko’s comments are revealing. There are lots of things the Torah forbids. Why isn’t Poupko demanding that we write letters banning pork from Canadian restaurants? Why on this issue are we supposed to be vocal? Why should we care either way? Poupko says its a matter of semantics:

Governments do not have the power to change the English language. Everyone knows what marriage means. For them to presume they have the power to change the definition of an old and established institution is hubris.

Muffti never understood why non-linguists feel qualified to speculate freely about meaning. Linguists don’t speculate freely about whether or on the Torah condemns gay marriage and expect to bet aken seriously. In any case, the picture is clear: governments allow a certain contractual relation to hold between people and they call that ‘marriage’. In a sense it’s not even the same word as the one we use in natural language because its definition really is dependant on what legislators say it means. If semantics has taught us anything it is to be ware of the differences between a word’s meaning and our beliefs about the thing that the word names. In any case, surely what we as Jews should not be overly concerned with the lexical properties of English words.

Anyhow, the legislation compels no one to perform marriage ceremonies they don’t feel are condoned by their religion. No rabbi will be compelled to perform marriage ceremonies for couples they don’t endorse. So, Muffti will end with the question he began with: why should we as Jews care about how civil law treats marriage?

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grandmuffti

32 Comments

  • Hi, long time reader, first time poster.

    Us residents of Massachusetts went through this grand debate about a year and 1/2 ago- interestingly, now that same-sex marriage is legal here, people seem to have just forgotten completely about it. Our society has not collapesd, and we go on as usual. The state legislature has more or less admitted that creating a state amendment banning it is a loosing battle, and it probably won’t be raised as a major issue again. Sure, this could be because we are a bunch of liberals in Mass., but even those who are not “liberal” around here feel that no one has any business in someone else’s personal life – it’s a New England thing. I find it interesting that the rest of the US seems to have forgotten that there is somewhere in the country where gay marriage is legal.

    Anyways, my issue with the gay marriage amendment has always been this: Marriage, as sanctioned by the sate, is nothing more or less than a conractural agreement between two consenting adults- it has nothing to do with religion. Our laws protect the right of adults to enter into whatever legal contracts they wish, without the intervention of the state.

    To me, letting religious opinion have any influence on this legal institution is a very clear violation of the separation of church and state. I think getting the “Jewish” view on this question into the mix is really against our own best interests, or the interests of any religious minority. Beleive me, it is best for us when religion and law are kept as far apart as possible.

  • I agree with ruchele. My religious opinion wrt homosexuality is irrelevant. I totally support the institution of a system whereby anytime two people share a life together, certain rights and obligations flow therefrom. The fact that such a facility, called marriage, already exists and benefits only heterosexual couples offends me.

  • I’m strongly in defense of gay marriage, and still believe that I will see all my gay friends marry the people of their dreams… but the question is that does Canada have separation of church and state? And is it me, or is the world all of a sudden going completely religious?

  • i dont think it matters about diaspora lands at all it would only matter in israel anyway…jews dont really have any right to tell america that as its against our torah, thats ridiculous the usa isnt exactly a jewish state, they should just forget about it (in the best god father accent 😉 )

  • The Israeli supreme court just recently allowed a lesbian adopt the children of her partner. Just sayin …

  • I’m also against gay marriage because it’s blasphemy. I would not oppose (wouldn’t support it either) an amendment in the law that would allow civil unions, but please don’t call it marriage – that’s only between a man and a woman. Then again, Jess has a point. When we stufy torah, we can get all hyped up about semantics of the hebrew word, its meaning and even the ‘sod’ behing it all with regard to the gematria as well. But english is not a holy language, and I suppose that a) call the union between a man and his dog marriage as well, and b) if it’s in the diaspora, I would hope that the Jews spent more energy in the community on outreach rather than trying to save the goyim who are hopeless anyways with their relativism.

    Seriously now, why should the law prevent sex between a man and animals? I thought most liberals want a separation of church and state, so why should they care about the realtions between a man and his best friend?

  • Uh Josh? Sex requires consent. Consent requires a lack of a power imbalance (ie teacher and student, boss and employee, owner and pet) and a clear communication. I don’t really think you can get informed consent from an animal. So that ought to answer your question vis-a-vis sex with animals.

    Now let’s see… other abominations mentioned by the Torah? The eating of seafood and Pork is one that comes up. Also male masturbation is punishable by death.

    Given that, I think in the American context, I agree with the founding fathers’ decision to enshrine a separation of church and state into the constitution. So yes, I am pro-gay marriage.

  • ck,
    why do you assume that marriage includes sex? Another thing; It’s a religious thing to make people wait until after marriage to have sex.

    Anyways, it is not rare for animals to ‘jump’ humans. And if a human wears the right ‘odour/musk’, they can motivate a sexual desire, not unlike what humans do to attract same species. If someone rubs an animal properly, the animal will consent. Why do you discriminate against the ‘speech challenged’. There you go.

    With a separation of church and state, there are no abominations.

  • Fine Josh, lets think of marriage as a union of 2 beings then. Given its contractual nature, informed consent is still required. Same arguments still apply.

    As for animals “jumping” humans or consenting by their exhibiting a physiological response or a willingness to “engage” that still does not count as informed consent. I am so not going there ….

    I think laya’s argument is truly decisive. Abominable snow man indeed. Keep THAT dude away from me!

  • I believe that it wasn’t until 1967 that it was legal for non-whites to marry white people. Aside from that, it seems to me that when you deny one group of people their right to something, you are just setting yourself up to be able to deny the rights of others. Forget what Judaism says about homosexuality when dealing with government because there shouldn’t be a relationship between religion and government. Just saying…

  • LH ALERT!

    Rabbi P was caught with, I believe a 22 yr old, 5-6 years ago. His wife left him, etc., etc. I wouldn’t turn to Rabbi P advice on marriage, gay or otherwise.

  • Personally, I don’t care who the goyim marry/sleep with, whatever.

    I just want to see intermarriage with Jews made illegal. :-[

  • “The Israeli supreme court just recently allowed a lesbian adopt the children of her partner. Just sayin …”
    I read about that too, for some reason i have nothing against that and dont think the torah would be against them adopting either, im against something like having the international gay parade in jerusalem like they did last year (or did they do it?)….anyway thats just sick..tel-aviv fine but not jerusalem

    “I just want to see intermarriage with Jews made illegal.”

    You serious with that one? that would be a kinda racist law i cant see that hapening..but yeh never heard of that idea b4…

  • shtreimel,
    so basically Rabbi Poupko is banned for life on giving any advice vis-a-vis human relations? What happened to tshuva? What happened to live and let live? What happened to letting a man rest on his mistakes? What happened to the fact that great people learn from their mistakes?

    Six years? Hell, I used to eat at McDonalds, drive on shabbat, and ‘other things’ too. Does that ban me from having a voice?

    Anyway,
    I was waiting for someone to bring that up but was hoping that since his congregation has forgiven him it would not be.

  • hey muffti,

    you got this mostly right, i think. i’ll add a few points:

    1) besides the bible, homosexuality is discussed in many other jewish texts. in brief, there is a clear long standing tradition in judaism – traditional, cultural and halachic – against the practice.

    2) while it may be true that the torah forbids many other practices (like cooking meat in meat), except for intermarriage none (in my opinion) are more threatening to what’s left of mainstream judaism today: family values.

    3) why are rabbis are other religious leaders worked up about this? maybe because rex has a point:

    …But the churches and religious people have a stake in this debate. They are rightly concerned that the passage of same-sex marriage legislation may evolve in to an insistence that they, the churches, will be forced to perform same-sex ceremonies once marriage has been redefined.

    They take no comfort from the government’s assurances that this will not be so, for it was the Liberal government’s own Justice Minister in 1999, Anne McLellan, who during a debate on the very issue of marriage declared emphatically and unequivocally, I quote, “Let me state again for the record that the government has no intention of changing the definition of marriage or of legislating same-sex marriages.”

    Minister McLellan was on a roll that day, for she went on, and I quote again “I support the motion for maintaining the clear legal definition of marriage in Canada as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.”

    Five years later, this government today introduced legislation which revokes every syllable and even the spaces between the syllables of the Liberal Justice Minister’s assurances. Today’s legislation by the Martin government is not just an assertion of a new right. It is potentially the reduction of an older one. Religious liberties are as dear to Canadians as civil ones, and the minefield before the government now is the narrow path between them and as to where that path may lead. Well, as Ms. McLellan’s words demonstrate so potently, government assurances on this topic just aren’t enough.

    4) not that anyone should care but for the record i couldn’t care less if gays marry. the underground america…dime forever!

    5) it’s still amazing to me that people throw around pseudo-legal phrases like “separation of church and state” and apparently have no idea what the constitution actually says (or more to the point: doesn’t say) about “separation”.

  • Maybe Poupko just needs to be the benefactor of a little “Queer Eye for the Rabbi” It could make him increase his open mindedness, and lighten up his wardrobe, all in one shot.

  • A few short points.

    (1) Canada has no formal separation of church and state like the USA does. This amazed my American friends who could never understand why Easter was a public holiday in Canada. I countered that in most of the USA there was no way a declared atheist could be elected to public office — now who has the separation of church and state?

    (2) Homosexual marriage is already permitted in seven provinces and one territory in Canada (making up about 85% of the population) due to high-court rulings in those jurisdictions. Even if the proposed federal legislation fails, gay marriage will still be legal in those places.

    (3) With due respect to Rex Murphy, Anne McLellan is one of the lone Liberal MPs from Alberta and knows what she needs to say to squeak by in every election. Her comments were made six years ago, before any of the provincial court rulings came down.

    (4) The argument that the government will compel clergy to perform homosexual marriage is groundless. They don’t compel priests to marry divorced Catholics with full Catholic rites, they don’t compel rabbis to marry Jews to non-Jews, so why should this case be different?

    (5) The bestiality argument is a total red herring for reasons already outlined. After the Conservative Party’s polygamy discussions I’m half-surprised that they managed to keep outbursts on bestiality under wraps. Perhaps they know they’ll lose their remaining credibility on this issue if they fail…

    In countries where two divorced, childless atheists can be married by an atheist civic official in a courthouse in a non-religious ceremony — and have full legal married status, the only arguments against civil same-sex marriage are religious ones.

  • Kenny,

    Muffti can’t believe you are calling anything he said ‘right’. It is a great day for muffti-ism everywhere!

    Let me say a couple of things:
    (1) It wasn’t meant to be a thourough examination of homsexuality’s relationship with judaism. Point well taken though.

    (2) The threat to family values is as misunderstood as the separation of church and state. First, there is no clear consensus on what the ‘values’ are supposed to be. Second, it’s not very clear how homosexuality and gay marriage attack said values.

    (3) Rex doesn’t seem to have much of a point. It doesn’t seem very likely at all that you could force religious ministers to perform marriage ceremonies condoned by their religionsthere is no evidence either that this is the case.

    (4) Agreed. Dimebag rules!

    (5) Agreed. Separation of church and state is murky and misunderstood (especially by me).

  • big muff[ti],

    (1) fed.
    (2) i was referring to jewish family values. ie. marriage betwen one jewish man and one jewish woman. i think that’s well understood in judaism today. see 1, supra.
    (3) re the preamble in c-38. maybe you’re right but hear me now: it will be less than 1 year from the time the legislation passes until one same sex couple sues a church for refusing to marry them (claiming inter alia that the religious exemption in the preamble of c-38 violates their charter rights). if you think the preamble of the proposed legislation is ample protection from said suit, then you must have been shocked (i wasn’t) when liberal judges decided to strike down the legislatively entrenched defintion of marriage in the FLA. you’ll have a case of conflicting rights: religion v equality (as the courts have now decided homosexuality is a rights issue) and since legislative deference means nothing these days it’s anybody’s guess how the courts will decide. at the very least, you can be sure jews our friends in the “human rights” organizations will be screaming bigot. that is what scares religious leaders. and btw, if you (not mufti) think this is the same thing as rabbis refusing to marry non-jews then you probably haven’t read and ceratinly don’t understand the charter.
    (4) it’s where we come from.
    (5) the comment above proves my point. like canada, the US has no separation of church and state in their constitution – at least not how anyone here means it. they simply have an anti-establishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” can you find the words “separation” “church” or “state” in the first amendment? is metallica better since bob rock started producing them?

    all that said, (a) i couldn’t give a crap; (b) i saw the jandek doc last night with robin; and (c) the pre-game starts soon.

  • About civil unions… the fact is that civil unions give rights to people under state law, it does not protect under federal law. For me, the concept of “gay marriage” is not about marriage at all… it’s about the 1,000 rights (and I’m not kidding, that’s how many there are) that gay people get if they so choose to get married. If anything, why don’t we make marriage a religious thing, and give everyone legal partnerships?

  • Muffti: “The threat to family values is as misunderstood as the separation of church and state. First, there is no clear consensus on what the ‘values’ are supposed to be. Second, it’s not very clear how homosexuality and gay marriage attack said values.”

    Are you a closet secularist, muffti? Not a ‘true’ Jew? If not, you do know how to speak their language.

  • I think the question of whether Orthodox Judaism should come out publicly against same-sex marriages hinges on this point:

    Not only is homosexuality outlawed for Jews by the written and oral torah, but it is one of the 7 Noachite Laws given that non-Jews must live by, as nearly all major poskim have ruled that homosexual relations fall under the category of Gilui Arayot (ie sexual immorality). However, that being said, the question is do we as Jews have a mandate to see that the noachite laws are enforced upon non-Jews?

    If we do then one could argue that we have a responsibility to speak out. But, even if we did, since outlawing gay marriage would not actually decrease the instances of gay intercourse, its probably a moot point.

  • Muffti would get mad at Michael for outing him, but he’s abusing enjoying his hospitality down in New Orleans.

    Kenny, interesting points, but please tell me, what’s the FLA? And why is it relevant to the case at hand? Is there precedence for suing a religious organization for not performing a marriage?

    As for screaming ‘bigot’, well, can’t they scream that anyways whether or not gay marraige is a legally recognized relation?

  • Homophobe, me, surely you jest. I have absolutely no fear of lesbians and gay men. And I think that contempt is way too strong a word, not because I’m some p.c. freak, but it’s not a good description of how I feel either. Perhaps the ending to this piece might be more suitable:
    http://www.jewishmag.com/44mag/homosexual/homosexual.htm
    More: http://www.ldolphin.org/jonahgays.html

    Now, I’ve already said that if it’s only goyim, who cares? They can choose to live by the noachide laws or not, I think that Chabad does enough work for that in Israel and overseas and have even bought billboard space all over Yesha to advertise to the Arabs. Anyone want pictures to write a blog piece?

  • either this will show up thirty times or not. please delete extra copies.

    Homophobe, me, surely you jest. I have absolutely no fear of lesbians and gay men. And I think that contempt is way too strong a word, not because I’m some p.c. freak, but it’s not a good description of how I feel either. Perhaps the ending to this piece might be more suitable:

    http://tinyurl.com/28r8v

  • Could someone please explain to me why government is in the marriage business in the first place? Considering that marriage has as many meanings as there are cultures / traditions on the planet, why should any melting-pot society like Canada or the US be involved in shoe-horning people into their definitions of marriage?

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