Religion

Conservative Movement Embraces Gay Unions

|

I'm talking, of course, about the Conservative movement of Judaism, which is confusingly situated left of Orthodoxy and right of Reform and Reconstructionist (both of which have accepted gay rabbis and gay marriage for a decade or so). And it's not really true that the whole movement is accepting gay clergy and gay couples. Rather, such acceptance is now officially an option approved by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly. The law committee is sort of like the Supreme Court, except that it  has more members (25 vs. nine); it interprets halacha (Jewish law) instead of the Constitution; and minority opinions count, as long as they attract a minimum number of votes. Conservative congregations may now choose between three conflicting legal opinions, two of which say gay rabbis and gay unions are halachically forbidden and one of which says they are halachically permitted.

The latter opinion hinges on a narrow interpretation of the biblical commandment, "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination." Under this reading, only anal sex with men is forbidden; oral sex, touching, and so on are OK. (The Bible is silent on the subject of lesbianism.) The law committee rejected attempts to ditch the rule against homosexuality altogether, which is not surprising, since the movement's identity hinges on halachic interpretation, as opposed to outright emendation. Even under the more permissive option, gay congregants are supposed to keep their sexual energies out of unapproved channels. Of course, Conservative Jews are also supposed to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath, but it would be an awfully small movement if those were enforced conditions of membership.

Advertisement

NEXT: Refighting Yesterday's Battles

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. hehehehe… “keep out of unapproved channels” hehehehehe…

  2. Once more, the absurdity of allowing three thousand year-old texts to determine our behavior and mores is clearly illustrated. Yeah, no buttfucking but you can suck and frot away. Oy vey! How about that for a tortured interpretation?

  3. what about anal sex with a woman? is that kosher?

  4. (both of which have accepted gay rabbis and gay marriage for a decade or so)

    Most of the arguments I’ve heard for and against game marriage tend to fall into the morality, family stability, or equal protection angles. There’s an aspect of the gay marriage debate I’ve haven’t heard anything about since it first really appeared on the political radar screens: the First Amendment angle. Let’s face it. Marriage is primarily a religious ceremony, namely the cosmic approval for the sex lives of two (or more, heh heh) people. Now, everyone open up your Cato Institute Pocket Constitutions and Bill Of Rights and read along with me… ahem…:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

    Now, what we have here is a religion that is more than willing to allow same-sex couples to get married. I’m sure that there are other faiths out there who do not share the Religious Right’s bigotry on this matter and would also be willing to hitch gays and lesbians. Given that, wouldn’t a ban on gay marriage violate the free exercise clause? Wouldn’t a ban create state approval for one religion’s definition of marriage, a clear violation of the establishment clause?

    Why haven’t I heard first amendment scholars come forth on this issue, or have they and I just missed it? To me it seems to be the best argument for gay marriage around.

  5. What do Rabbis no from Fancy Fucking? That’s for the goyim.

  6. How is prohibiting anal sex a literal interpretation of “Do not lie with a man…” I can’t think of any man who could possibly have vaginal intercourse with another man, so I’m a little lost here.

    I actually got an e-mail from the new rabbi at my parents’ synagogue this morning of a press release he wrote on the topic. It seemed pretty apparent which way he’s leaning.

  7. “what about anal sex with a woman? is that kosher?”

    Only if you’re not donkey punching her in the back of the head with a fist full of sea scallops.

  8. Religion = Tortured Justification.

  9. How is prohibiting anal sex a literal interpretation of “Do not lie with a man…” I can’t think of any man who could possibly have vaginal intercourse with another man, so I’m a little lost here.

    How can you expect logic from a faith who thought drinking “dirty water” was a sure-fire means to determine if you’re wife has been sleeping around on you.(Numbers 5: 11-31)

  10. I’m a Reconstructionist Jew. Since 2002, when our founder left for greener pastures, my congregation has had no straight rabbis. I’m weirdly proud of that.

  11. I thought it was do not lie to man as to a woman. That would make sense to me.

  12. “Do not lie with a man as with a woman…”

    Clearly the correct interpretation is that man on man anal is fi-didlee-fine as long as neither has gone backdoor with a woman.

  13. When I saw the title my immediate puzzlement was “since when did the GOP start courting support from all of those writers, actors, wardrobe designers and Formula-1 mechanics?”

  14. Halacha provides for a balance of change and continuity. There is such a range in rabbis that congregants can find the balance that fits them best.

    The ruling on homosexuality is a step in the right direction. Ten years from now, there will probably be full acceptance of homosexuals.

    This isn’t the first time rabbis redefined marriage rules. Around 1,000 years ago Ashkenazi rabbis outlawed polygyny.

  15. gay oral sex cannot be kosher since it involves a man sticking a sausage in another man’s mouth. and iirc, there’s a kashrut prohibition against eating bottom-feeders…

  16. Clearly the correct interpretation is that man on man anal is fi-didlee-fine as long as neither has gone backdoor with a woman.

    Too damn funny. A Bishopic for you.

  17. Only if you’re not donkey punching her in the back of the head with a fist full of sea scallops.

    ooooooooooookay…

  18. Of course, Conservative Jews are also supposed to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath, but it would be an awfully small movement if those were enforced conditions of membership.

    WTF? Does Sullum actually think that Conservative Jews don’t bother to keep kosher and obey the Sabbath? There are a lot of Jews in this city, and I can tell you that a lot of them are very serious about these things. (For example, some buildings even have “Sabbath elevators” which go up and down and stop at every floor automatically, so that you don’t have to press a button to make them work.) Also, I don’t think there is such a thing as “membership in Conservative Judaism”. Basically, to Jews, once a Jew, always a Jew. Maybe a bad Jew who eats crab rangoons while using electricity on the Sabbath, but still a Jew. So you don’t stop being a Jew, or even a Conservative Jew, just because you occasionally break a rule. I really don’t think Sullum knows what he’s talking about here. A particular congregation or organization could kick someone out, and might if he made a big public political stand about homosexuality or eating treyf, but I don’t believe there are any that police their members’ private activity that closely.

  19. (The Bible is silent on the subject of lesbianism.)

    Isn’t that sexism by omission? I call for another chapter to be added to the Bible, first describing a lesbian relationship in salacious detail, and then showing the dykes punished by a wrathful diety.

  20. (The Bible is silent on the subject of lesbianism.)

    Isn’t the Bible pretty much silent on the subject of female sexuality in general.

    I mean, men are recognized as horndogs whose hordoggery is sometimes condoned and sometimes condemned, while women are virtuous vessels who bear children.

  21. “I mean, men are recognized as horndogs whose hordoggery is sometimes condoned and sometimes condemned, while women are virtuous vessels who bear children.”

    Which edition of the Bible are you using? My edition has women serving as generals and hit-persons (Judges, Chapter 4-5), head-chopper-offers (the entire book of Judith), witches (1 Samuel 28:7-25 — and she wasn’t hanged or anything!), and *Kelo*-implementing land confiscators (1 Kings Chapter 21.

  22. “Isn’t the Bible pretty much silent on the subject of female sexuality in general.”

    Uh, no. Look at 2 Samuel Chap. 11, the Song of Solomon, and of course Genesis 38:13-26. That last one is actually kind of kinky, because a woman gets it on with her father-in-law.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.