Harry's Place on Jews and gay marriage

By MatthewHarris
May 28, 2012

At Harry's Place, I have a guest post (http://hurryupharry.org/2012/05/28/matthew-offord-and-same-sex-marriage/) on marriage equality, in which my arguments include:

"In other words, Christians do own Christian marriage – but they do not own all other marriage. They get to decide what constitutes a Christian marriage, but they do not get to decide what constitutes a Jewish marriage, a Hindu marriage, a Muslim marriage, a secular (civil) marriage, a Sikh marriage. We need to start using a hyphen to create new words. Marriage is one thing and Christian-marriage is another. Civil-marriage is another, and Orthodox-Jewish-marriage is another. These things are similar to each other, but they are not the same thing as each other.

"By way of analogy: because my Mum is Jewish, I fit the Orthodox Jewish definition of who-is-a-Jew in religious terms. I could therefore get married in an Orthodox synagogue, if I was marrying a woman who was also Jewish in the eyes of the synagogue concerned. If, however, I wanted to marry any other woman, then I could not marry her in that same Orthodox synagogue. Assuming I then went and married her in a register office, then I would have had a civil-marriage, but not an Orthodox-Jewish-marriage – and Orthodox Jews would recognise that I was now married according to “the law of the state”, despite my not being married in religious terms.

"The idea that “the law of the state is the law” goes back many, many centuries in Jewish terms. It was the only way that a religious community could work out how to live in countries in which most people lived outside the faith. If I was an Orthodox Jew, I would believe that my faith forbids me to eat pork, but I would accept that eating pork is not illegal under English law – it would simply not matter to me that it is legal to eat pork and that other people choose to eat it, as I would choose not to eat it. So, if I was an Orthodox Jew, I would believe that my faith forbids me to marry anyone other than a Jewish woman, but I would accept that marrying other people (of either gender) is not illegal under English law (once the law has changed to allow same-sex marriage), and that would have nothing to do with my definition of Orthodox-Jewish-marriage."


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