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Home » Pinchas, Same Sex Marriage

Pinchas : Same Sex Marriage Part One

Submitted by on November 4, 2005 – 2:03 amNo Comment | 1,720 views
This essay is not related to the Parsha of the week but is posted here
because the subject has recently become a household topic of discussion



[Part one of three]

The Debate


Same Sex Marriage is a front-page news item debated in North American
media, legislatures and courts. The topic has recently piqued again
because of a Parliamentarian vote to legalize same sex marriage in
Canada.




This human-interest issue deeply affects many from across the political
spectrum and elicits radical responses on both sides of the isle.




Proponents of the bill have painted the it as a human rights and
egalitarianism issue that grants same sex couples the same rights that
are enjoyed by heterosexual couples. This is a brilliant masterstroke
on the part of proponents because painting opposition to the bill as
discriminatory places its opponents in a very delicate position.




Opponents of the bill have invoked the sanctity of Marriage. Same sex
marriage is painted as a slippery slope, that will eventually erode the
traditional structure of marriage between a man and a woman. Biblical
injunctions such as “Man shall therefore leave his mother and father
and cleave to his wife,” and “Thou shall not lie with a man as one
would with a woman,” are often invoked. (1)




While no one likes to be seen as dismissive of the bible proponents
find such concerns  easily surmountable. In western society, class
discrimination is viewed as a greater evil than dismissal or even
opposition to biblical imperatives.




It comes as no surprise that most faith-based groups are opposed to
same sex marriage. This is especially true of many Jewish faith
representatives. After all, Jews are the original trailblazers of
biblical values and ought to be its continued torchbearers.

The Sin not the Sinner


While the Jewish faith strictly opposes legalization of same sex
marriage, it also enjoins us to carefully examine our conscience to
ensure that our opposition is based on religious grounds, not social
mores or, even worse, homophobia.




In the Torah G-d clearly prohibited cohabitation between members of the
same sex. In Biblical parlance such activity is deemed abominable and
sinful. At the same time Torah also prohibits discrimination against
sinners. Homosexual activity is restricted, not the homosexual person.
The act is an abomination, not the actor. The sin is forbidden, not the
sinner. (2)




The Talmud relates a remarkable discussion that took place between the
great sage Rabbi Meyer and his learned wife, Bruriah. She overheard her
husband praying for the downfall of a particularly vexing neighbor and
advised him to pray for “an end to the vexing rather than the downfall
of the vexer.” Citing the Biblical verse, “All sin shall cease,” she
argued, ” The sins must cease, not the sinners.”  (3) Rabbi Meir
accepted her wise advice and prayed accordingly. Sure enough, the
neighbor soon stopped his vexing ways. (4)




This story underscores the Torah's approach to all sin. The act must
never be condoned but the actors must also never be dismissed. We must
work to educate rather than to denigrate.




This is especially true of homosexuals who are driven by impulses that
they neither chose nor desire. These individuals must be treated with
empathy even as we make certain that our empathy is not misconstrued as
approval of the act itself. (5)

A Litmus Test


In my opinion a simple litmus test can determine whether our opposition
to same sex marriage is motivated by religious imperative or internal
bias.




Homosexuality is not the only biblical prohibition. The Torah prohibits
coveting, grudge bearing, gossip and slander. There are literally
hundreds of prohibitions in the Torah. (6)




To pass the litmus test one must treat same sex couples in the same
manner as as one would treat transgressors of any other commandment. If
the latter are welcome in our synagogues and homes than so should the
former. If our rejection of homosexual activity is greater than our
opposition to other sins then our motivation is not a righteous one. (7)

Why it's Wrong


If, as proponents claim, the same sex marriage bill is merely an
attempt to grant equal rights to all married couples, why do I oppose
it? Am I against offering tax benefits to same sex couples? Am I
against enabling same sex couples to make medical decisions for their
loved ones? Am I against the principles of human rights?




Actually I am not against them at all. I have no religious quarrel with
amending the tax code. I do, however, have a quarrel with the same sex
marriage bill because I don't believe that it is about the tax code or
legal equality.




This is not an anti discrimination bill, it is a homosexuality bill. I
believe that proponents of same sex marriage are driven by a desire to
condone homosexual activity between members of the same gender.




A simple litmus test will quickly determine the truth. Would proponents
agree to withdraw the bill if same sex couples were offered all the
legal rights that are currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples? If the
answer is no then this bill is motivated by a desire to normalize gay
marriage, not to amend the tax bill. To be sure, such amendments are a
welcome side benefit but they are not the primary objective. (8)




The drive to legitimize marriage between members of the same gender is
an effort to condone the homosexual act itself. As a believing Jew, I
cannot in good conscience support the bill because I cannot in good
conscience condone homosexual activity . (9)



Footnotes

  1. Genesis 2, 24 and Leviticus 18, 22
  2. To
    be sure, Torah advocates, and indeed obligates, the punishment of
    sinners. But punishment is not meted out to those who were raised in a
    permissive environment and do not appreciate the severity of biblical
    commandments. On the contrary in those situations it is incumbent upon
    us to educate rather than to discriminate.
  3. Psalm 104, verse 35. 
  4. Bab. Talmud Brachos, 10a.
  5. It
    is important to distinguish between the homosexual act and homosexual
    impulses. The former is biblically forbidden and an abomination, the
    latter is not forbidden at all.
  6. It is
    true that these acts are only forbidden to Jews while homosexuality is
    biblically forbidden to all mankind but the argument remains cogent
    despite this distinction.
  7. But rabbi, you
    might argue, the bible refers to homosexuality as an abomination, thus
    deeming it a greater sin than the others. Even if, for the sake of
    argument, I would agree that the term abomination somehow increases the
    level of offense I would point out that  homosexuality is not the
    only abominable sin in the Bible. (Leviticus 18, 26) If one treats a
    homosexual in the same manner that one treats all other abominable
    sinners than one has indeed passed the litmus test.
  8. The
    Massachusetts legislature has in the past considered a compromise that
    supported same sex unions but did not condone same sex marriage but the
    same suggestion was rejected in the Canadian Parliament.
  9. It
    may be argued that my understanding of the bill's motivation is
    mistaken and that it truly is an attempt to offer full legal rights to
    same sex couples. I would still be compelled to oppose the bill because
    legalizing same sex marriage would de-facto legalize and thus condone
    the homosexual act. (See footnote #7)

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