What the Chief Rabbi said on gay marriage

This is the text of the response of the London Beth Din (Court of the Chief Rabbi) and the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue to the Government Consultation on Equal Civil Marriage


INTRODUCTION

Marriage by definition in Jewish (biblical) law is the union of a male and a female. While Judaism teaches respect for others and condemns all types of discrimination, we oppose a change to the definition of marriage that includes same-sex relationships. Jewish (biblical) law prohibits the practice of homosexuality. It therefore follows that same-sex unions are against Jewish law.

Question 1

Do you agree or disagree with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony?

We disagree.

Question 2

Please explain the reasons for your answer.

Our understanding of marriage from time immemorial has been that of a union between a man and a woman. Any attempt to redefine this sacred institution would be to undermine the concept of marriage.

Question 3

If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, would you wish to have a civil marriage ceremony?

Not applicable.

Question 4

If you represent a group a group of individuals who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual, would those you represent with to have a civil marriage?

Not applicable.

Question 5

The government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

This question confuses the notion of religious and civil marriage with a religious and civil ceremony. In English law, there is only one institution of marriage which can be entered into through either a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony.

We agree that the government should not legislate for a religious ceremony for same-sex couples. However, we also do not agree that a civil ceremony should be open to such couples for the reasons given in our response to questions 1 and 2. Furthermore, we are concerned that if the government were to introduce same-sex marriage through a civil ceremony, any attempt to exclude the possibility of a religious ceremony for such couples would be subject to challenge to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds of discrimination.

Question 6

Do you agree or disagree with keeping the option of civil partnerships once civil marriage is available to same-sex couples?

As we have made clear in our response to question 1 and 2, Orthodox Judaism prohibits same-sex civil partnerships.

Question 7

If you identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual and were considering making a legal commitment to your partner, would you prefer to have a civil partnership or a civil marriage.

Not applicable.

Question 8

The government is not considering opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree with this proposal?

We support the institution of marriage as opposed to that of civil partnership but note that if same-sex couples were to be allowed to enter into both civil partnerships and marriages, there would be a case for opposite-sex couples to protest that they have been discriminated against, insofar as they are precluded from entering into civil partnerships.

Question 9

If you are in a civil partnership, would you wish to take advantage of this policy and convert your civil partnership into a marriage?

Not applicable.

Question 10

Do you agree or disagree that there should be a time limit on the ability to convert a civil partnership into a marriage?

Not applicable.

Question 11

Do you agree or disagree that there should be the choice to have a civil ceremony on conversion of a civil partnership into a marriage?

We have already responded, that we do not agree that the institution of marriage should be extended to include same-sex couples.

Question 12

If you are a married transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while obtaining a full Gender Recognition Certificate?

Not applicable.

Question 13

If you are the spouse of a transsexual person, would you want to take advantage of this policy and remain in your marriage while your spouse obtained a full Gender Recognition Certificate?

Not applicable.

Question 14

Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issues outlined in this chapter on consequential impacts.

Question 15

Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals that we have not accounted for?

Question 16

Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation?

Last updated: 11:42am, July 5 2012