A Jewish perspective on same-sex marriage

Anyone who takes sacred religious texts literally needs to move on with the times. Marriage should be open to all.

Share
Related Topics

From a Jewish perspective, it is hard to see why anyone religious can be against same-sex marriage without being accused of acute hypocrisy.

Christians might quote the Bible and the verse in Leviticus 18.22 which declares ‘You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination’ or go a few chapters on where it is not only repeated, but in even stronger terms, and the death penalty is laid down for all practitioners (20.13).

However, despite those who piously cite Scripture, they have no problem ignoring other verses in the same sacred book. For instance, about circumcising their male children, abstaining from pork or prawns, and not wearing garments in which wool & linen is mixed.

Those who conveniently overlook those commands but still object to homosexuality, are just doing a pick and mix job with the Bible, and are driven not by religious beliefs but by anti-gay prejudice.

As for Jews who take all of the Hebrew Bible seriously, there are three choices when approaching the verses on gays.

Some stick to the literal text, but that causes a major problem when they come up against real live people who are both gay and religious, whose lives defy the Bible and who simply cannot be dismissed as abominable.

Others drasticly reinterpret the text, claiming that the ban on homosexual activity should be read with regard to heterosexuals: that they should not engage in homosexual relationships.

Thus heterosexuals should stick to their practices, homosexuals to theirs, and everyone do what is natural to them, but not engage in other types of sexual practices for the sake of experimentation.    

This may appear to be twisting the biblical verse, but it is a genuine attempt to wrestle with a sacred text, work within the Bible and find meaning for today.

The Bible is not the literal word of God, but the inspiration of God, as perceived by people of that era and subject to the limitations of the period. It therefore has to constantly adapt according to new knowledge and new insights.


The third - and, to my mind, best - option is to say that the Bible is not the literal word of God (and thus cannot be changed), but is the inspiration of God, as perceived by people of that era and subject to the limitations of the period. It therefore has to constantly adapt according to new knowledge and new insights.

Revelation was not a one-off, never to be repeated, but instead there is the concept of Progressive Revelation; each generation seeking to understand the will of God for its own time.

A modern Jewish approach would therefore endorse the view that homosexuality is not a perversion but a natural orientation. Moreover, if we regard all humanity as creatures of God, then God not only made some people male and some female (Genesis 1.27) , but also some heterosexual and some homosexual. Gay people are created gay by God.

If this is the case, then certain consequences follow: one is complete equality for gay people, not just in a negative sense of being free from discrimination, but in having positive rights, be it pensions, marriage or divorce. It is a matter of equity. Equity is not just a secular value, but a very important religious value and needs to be reclaimed as such.

Another consequence is that the term ‘marriage’ and the concept of marriage does not belong exclusively to heterosexuals; they may have had it first and for a long time, but that does not give them sole claim on it. It would be just as ridiculous to restrict the right to vote to men because it used to belong solely to them (and, originally, only to men who were property-owners).

If we believe that marriage is a good vehicle for stability – both for the couple themselves and for society at large - then why should it be limited to heterosexuals?

It is also important to dispel two spurious arguments against gay marriage. Firstly, that marriage is associated in many religious mindsets with children. That is certainly true, but ‘associated with’ is not the same as ‘dependent on’ – otherwise ministers of all faiths would have to refuse to officiate at ceremonies in which a young couple had already decided not to have children, or were unable to have any for medical reasons. We would also have the embarrassing task of asking brides who were 40-something whether they had gone through menopause yet.

Secondly, nothing is more ridiculous than claims that permitting gay marriage would destroy family life or marriage in general. What gay people do or do not do will have no effect on whether heterosexuals marry, live-together, have children, have affairs, fall-out, get divorced, or remarry.

Those who feel that society will be undermined by gay marriage are really saying that they personally feel threatened by it. It is certainly true that heterosexuals can feel uncomfortable with homosexuality, but that is largely habit and conditioning, and should have no bearing on how society reacts or legislation is framed.

I cannot believe in a God who creates both heterosexuals and homosexuals, and would then want us to deny either the right to seek marital fulfillment. It is neither fair, nor religious.

Independent Voices has launched a campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. To read more about our Equal Partners campaign and sign the petition, click here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Isis in Iraq: Even if Iraqi troops take back Saddam’s city of Tikrit they will face bombs and booby traps

Patrick Cockburn
The Royal Mint Engraver Jody Clark with his new coinage portrait, alongside the four previous incarnations  

Queen's new coin portrait: Second-rate sculpture makes her look characterless

Michael Glover
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003