Masorti on the fence over gay marriage


By Simon Rocker
December 13, 2012
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The Reform and Liberal movements have both welcomed the government’s promise to press ahead with the introduction of gay marriage.

The Chief Rabbi has made his opposition known, but he has certainly not been as vocal about it as Catholic leaders.

But the Masorti movement remains undecided. It did release a statement this week in which its senior rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said: “Gay people have long been subject to misjudgment, humiliation and exclusion, especially in religious life. A key Conservative responsum advocates full inclusion of gay people in all areas of Jewish life and leadership.

“We believe in marriage as an ideally lifelong, loving, unique and faithful commitment made before God. We supported civil partnerships between gay people. We are in discussion on how such bonds of loving commitment can best be expressed in traditional religious ceremonies.”

The statement noticeably avoids any actual reference to the government’s proposal. But clearly the whole issue is under discussion and it remains to be seen whether Masorti here will follow the American Conservative movement in allowing religious ceremonies for gay couples.

Under the government’s plans, religious organisations which do not want to hold gay ceremonies will retain the freedom not to. But some religious groups fear the legislation will not be watertight and they could be open to challenge to anti-discrimination claims in the courts.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, says: “It remains our position that different parts of the community will clearly have different approaches to the issue and our concern is that no community should be compelled to conduct ceremonies that they are not comfortable holding.

“The Prime Minister and Culture Secretary’s assurances on this point are welcome and we expect the opt out clauses to be watertight so that nuisance claims cannot be made, forcing communal organisations into expensive litigation to protect their rights.”

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