Same-sex marriage and Judaism

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Same-sex marriage in Judaism has been a subject of debate within Jewish denominations. The traditional view among Jews is to regard same-sex relationships as categorically forbidden by the Torah. This remains the current view of Orthodox Judaism, but not of Reconstructionist Judaism, Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism, which started changing its position to same-sex unions in 2006.

As the issue of same-sex marriage has broached the forefront of social and political consciousness in the United States over the past few years, it has also become more prevalent in the Jewish community as well. Certain sects of Judaism that had until recently been less open to gays rights, have made organizational advances on the issues. The Conservative Movement was the last of Judaism’s liberal streams to adopt a more progressive streamlined approach to dealing with issues related to homosexuality.[1] Even within the insular Orthodox community, there is a small, but growing population of individuals and leaders who are actively engaged in the struggle for same-sex marriage as a secular institution in America. Rabbi Steven Greenberg is an openly gay Orthodox rabbi who is leading the charge among open-minded Orthodox and traditionally-observant Jews around the world. Leading Orthodox rabbis have denounced reparative therapy and have embraced a much more toned down approach to homosexuality in Judaism.[2] Each year dozens of observant Jewish students "come out of the closet" and many have increasingly remained involved in organized Jewish life. Organizations have been established to assist Jews struggling with the perceived dichotomy between living a traditional Jewish life and being homosexual. Eshel was established by Rabbi Greenberg as a platform to advocate for greater acceptance of LGBT Jews in Orthodox life.[3] Jewish Queer Youth (JQY) also exists as a platform to connect with and advocate for LGBT rights within Jewish communities around the country.

Branches of Judaism[edit]

Orthodox Judaism[edit]

Orthodox Judaism maintains the traditional Jewish bans on both sexual acts and marriage amongst members of the same sex.[4] The Orthodox Union in the United States supported a federal Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.[5] In Australia, the Organisation of Rabbis Australasia (ORA) have made submissions and written public letters against legalising same-sex marriage.

Reform Judaism[edit]

Ed and Eddie under the huppah, (2008)

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) supports the inclusion of same-sex unions within the definition of marriage.[6]

Conservative Judaism[edit]

The American branch of Conservative Judaism formally approves of same-sex marriage ceremonies.[7] Some synagogues within Conservative Judaism still reject recognition of same-sex unions as marriages, but permit celebration of commitment ceremonies, in part as an expression of their belief that scripture requires monogamy of all sexually active couples.[8] The decision avoids applying the Jewish legal term for marriage, kiddushin, to the same-sex situation, as the term is gender-specific.[9]

Reconstructionist Judaism[edit]

The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation leaves the choice of whether or not to perform same-sex marriages to individual rabbis.[10]

Public opinion[edit]

Among American religious groups in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, Jews were the most in favor of allowing same-sex marriages, at 83% (+/− 11%).[11] A 2013 poll by Haaretz showed support among Israelis (including Arabs) for same-sex marriage at 59%, with secular and traditional Jews particularly supportive and Haredi Jews firmly opposed.[12]


  1. ^ Dorff, Elliot; Nevins, Daniel; Reisner, Avram. Rabbinical Assembly (PDF) Retrieved 4 March 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Steve, Greenberg. "Rabbi". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  3. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, "Orthodox Response to Same-Sex Marriage," NY Jewish Week (Mar. 26, 2004) (visited January 20, 2008)
  5. ^ "OU Restates its Support for Federal Marriage Protection Amendment". Institute for Public Affairs. 2006-06-06. Retrieved 2013-05-01. 
  6. ^ Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Civil Marriage for Gay and Lesbian Jewish Couples (adopted by the General Assembly 1997) (visited January 20, 2008).
  7. ^ "Conservative Jews approve gay wedding guidelines". Associated Press. 2012-06-01. Retrieved 2013-05-01. 
  8. ^ Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Homosexuality, Human Dignity, & Halakhah: A Combined Responsum for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (approved by a majority of the Committee on Dec. 6, 2006) at (visited January 20, 2008)
  9. ^ Ben Sales, "Conservative rabbinic group issues guidelines for same-sex wedding rituals", JTA, June 4, 2012
  10. ^ "FAQ's on Reconstructionist Approaches to Jewish ideas and Practices". Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  11. ^ "A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues". Public Religion Research Institute. Dec 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  12. ^ Ilan Lior and Jonathan Lis (15 December 2013). "Haaretz poll finds 70% of Israelis support equality for gay community". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 April 2015.