Jewish groups respond to Obama backing gay marriage

American Jewish groups have expressed support for President Barack Obama’s declaration in support of gay marriage.

In a landmark statement on Wednesday the president said: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”

A recent survey found that some four out of five American Jews believe gay marriage should be legal and the announcement was greeted with praise by the National Jewish Democratic Council and other organisations. Its chair, Marc Stanley, said he was pleased President Obama had made “a decisive statement in support of marriage equality.

“He has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans.”

“Tonight when I go home and look at my six month old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family,” said Alan van Capelle, chief executive of Bend the Arc: a Jewish
Partnership for Justice. “I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country.”

A spokeswoman for Keshet, the Jewish gay rights group, wrote on Twitter: “We're saying a special Shehecheyanu today. Thank you for speaking out.”

But support was not unanimous, with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America saying that Jewish law was unequivocal in opposing same sex relationships. “Marriage and family has long been a prime value for the Jewish people. While Judaism also teaches respect for others and condemns discrimination we, as Orthodox Jewish leaders, oppose any effort to change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions.

“Such legalisation is also problematic with regard to religious liberty, as dissenting institutions are pressured to support or recognize relationships they cannot."

Last updated: 8:39am, May 10 2012