The Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has finally broken his silence on gay and lesbian marriages and opposed government plans to introduce it.
In a submission to a Home Office consultation, the London Beth Din (the Chief Rabbi’s court), and the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, stated that same-sex unions were “against Jewish law”.
Same-sex couples can currently have civil partnership ceremonies but the government is proposing to offer them the option of having a civil, though not religious, marriage.
In contrast to the vocal support given by the Reform and Liberal movements to equality in marriage for same-sex couples, the Chief Rabbi had until now avoided taking a public stand.
While the submission was made in the name of the Beth Din and RCUS, the Chief Rabbi's Office made it clear that it included Lord Sacks.
The statement said: “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.”
Civil marriage for same-sex couples should be rejected because, they said, “any attempt to redefine this sacred institution would be to undermine the concept of marriage”.
They also voiced concern 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”.
They made clear that Orthodox Judaism “prohibits same-sex civil partnerships”.