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Mama Deb
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Rant #1: Gay Marriage and Orthodox Judaism



Here's the thing about marriage in general - there are two components to it - a religious aspect and a civil aspect. Actually, Jewish marriages are more "legal" than they are religious, but the laws are part of the religion, so it gets confusing.

Orthodox Judaism forbids any number of marriages - divorced women and Kohanim (the priestly caste), converts and Kohanim, second marriages for a husband and wife where the wife had another husband in between. Jews and nonJews. These are the laws of the religion, and I have no problems with that - I feel for the people who can't get married under Jewish law. I especially feel for Kohanim who realize after the divorce that it was a mistake, because a Kohen can't even marry his own divorcee. But these are the laws and Gd has reasons for them, and I don't have to like them.

All of these marriages are permitted under US civil law, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Civil marriage is a contract - a shortcut for a huge number of rights and benefits, such as inheritance, medical decisions and property rights. There are so many of these that it's impossible to duplicate them any other way and all those duplications that can be done can also be challenged by family. And none of these have anything to do with religion. Yes, the Jewish ketubah details some of these, but it's a decidedly one-sided documents (all the rights are the woman's, all the responsibilities are the husband's.) and it just shows how much civil law there is in Judaism. It's also irrelevent.

There is no reason under civil law why marriages should be restricted to heterosexual couples, or couples at all. I can't seeing it destroying the fabric of our nation if three people decide to make a legal commitment to each other. This would not require Jewish law, or Catholic law, or any Protestant church, to recognize these marriages. There are already marriages that the first two do not recognize, such as the ones I've listed above.

What makes the whole thing a marriage, so far as I'm concerned, is that there should be a couple of hoops to enter it - a license, at the very least - and many, many hoops to dissolve it. There should be thought in both entering it and leaving it, but it should be possible to leave it.

No one will ever compell a religion to recognize a marriage that goes against its principles, and that's fine. It has nothing to do with civil marriage.

Comments

G-d bless you--that was awesome.

Thank you.

Thank you. I agree wholeheartedly.

Although I thought a Kohain could marry a whoever but he gave up Kohain status for it. Kind of like abdicating the throne.
(But what do I know?)

Bit more complex than that. He gives up the rights and privileges of being a Kohen so long as the marriage exists - if it ends in divorce or her death, he gets those back. On the other hand, their male line descendents are affected - the males are not Kohanim and their daughters can not marry them. Forever. So it's a heavy choice.

And. Thank you.

My understanding is that under Orthodox interpretations of halakha, the cohen is not allowed to marry a divorcee etc., but if he does, the marriage is still valid. (I.e., he has to give her a proper divorce before they can marry anyone else. By contrast, if a man goes through a marriage ceremony with his sister, the marriage is invalid--the sister doesn't need a divorce.)

The Conservatives, on the other hand, let the cohen give up his privileges and stay married.

Very nice.

I won't touch the Orthodox part though XD

Personally I think they should get rid of civil marriage, but what happens to the automatic benefits then?

Hmmm...

I think marriage serves a civil purpose - it creates those legal benefits and also helps with the raising of children. And I think humans, in general, want to commit. In general, not in every case.

I just think that, while religions have the right to say who marries whom to their members, civil law shouldn't.

I tend to think (or at least hope) that humans in general want to commit.

And I agree that civil law shouldn't tell people who marries whom.

But, if there were no civil marriage maybe people would stop arguing about this issue. I stopped ages ago but I have friends who just won't in good conscience support same-sex marriage, even though some admit they have no objective reason.

As it stands, marriage serves a civil purpose, but does it have to be that way?

I did hear someone on the radio say you can get a lawyer to write up some of the automatic civil benefits for you but it costs thousands of dollars.

I don't know what the answer is.

Sorry, I don't mean to jump all over your rantlet. It makes perfect sense.

I just think that, while religions have the right to say who marries whom to their members, civil law shouldn't.

wow - I've never heard it put quite so succintly...I *really* like how you put that! I think you're the first Orthodox woman I've heard say this, although many of my Conservative (religiously, not necessarily politically) friends feel, as do I, that the ban on same-sex civil marriage is out of place in this day and age.

::puts this in memories::

You'd be surprised about us Orthodox women.

Besides, I was a liberal long before I was Orthodox, and those beliefs don't change.

Thank you.

I am, almost every time I meet one ;)

so you didn't grow up Orthodox? I'm always intrigued what moves someone to go from Conservative (or Reform!) to Orthodox... I think it's mostly due to my stubborn refusal to be Shomer Shabbos, at least until the weekend is somehow extended to include a non-Sunday in this Bible Belt state I call home.

you're welcome :D

We weren't religious at all. My family only joined synagogues so that my brothers could go to Hebrew school - Orthodox Hebrew school when we lived in Brooklyn; Conservative when we moved to New Jersey because the town had not yet obtained an Orthodox shul. Once my younger brother quite, about six months before he turned 13, that was it.

Orthodoxy was a place I'd been heading to my entire life. I wrote stories with non-religious women becoming religious, over and over again - and I never figured out why. The catalyst was joining SF fandom and meeting Orthodox Jews and then my future husband who showed me the way in, and made sure I didn't go too fast.

You know what's funny? In my neighborhood, Sunday is treated like a weekday. Kids go to school, adults go to work. It's just another day. So they get no weekend at all.

So they get no weekend at all.

you just encapsulated my entire reasoning in one simple sentence...

I've been leaning more toward Conservadox thru my 20s and 30s, but I think that giving up my weekend is what has always stood in my way of going any further.

anyway, thank you for listening to me!

Huh. I'd ranted about many people's confusion of civil and religious marriage before, but I hadn't thought to toss in the examples of existing legally-recognized civil marriages that particular religions prohibit. I think this is going to be a very useful meme for me. Thank you. There's a clarity here that I hadn't managed yet in my own attempts to discuss the issue.

I think it's because my religion has so many restrictions - more than Christianity, for example. I hope this does help.

:)

I agree wholeheartedly. I think the only argument against gay marriage is one that is based in a religious definition of who that religion will identify as a marriageable couple (or group). I don't think that our government has any business using a religious argument for denying civil rights to a group of people. That is discrimination and violates our constitution.
Many people then fall back on the reproductive argument to deny marriage rights to gays and other types of relationships. However, there are many married couples who cannot or do not want to reproduce. My husband and I have been married for over a decade and have intentionally chosen not to have kids. Does that make our marriage invalid? I shouldn't think so. Should we deny the rights of menopausal women to marry? That, again, would be discrimination based on age. So, we are therefore cannot use reproduction as the basis to deny marriage rights.
That leaves very little left to deny gay marriage, other than sheer prejudice. Not exactly what I think this country should be basing its laws on.
There is an argument to remove the government from the marriage business, but that does raise the question of how to protect the legal rights that married couples (and their children) now enjoy. I think those rights are important. Instead of limiting a couple's access to those rights, we should be finding a different way to grant them to all.
I know of heterosexual couples, who are not sexually or romantically involved, but share every other thing in common with a "family". I see no reason why they should not be accorded the same rights as a married couple, either. I don think that it is in the best interests of everyone in this country to figure out a way to legalize the idea of domestic partnership and keep the government out of our bedrooms and romantic lives, as well as to keep it from making religious decisions for us.

The reproduction thing drives me nuts - I'm infertile myself. Does it make my marriage less valid because we can't have biological children? Of course not. I could have gone to a wedding on Monday where the bride - a first time bride - was postmenopausal. And good for her. She should still have many happy years with her husband.

And, honestly, I don't see any reason why the partners should necessarily be sexually involved. There are marriages - legal marriages - where that doesn't happen. So, you know, why assume? Consumation is also a religious thing.

I like separation of church and state. I really do.

That's exactly the argument I've been using. If you don't want them getting married in your house of worship, fine. That has nothing to do with civil law. And there is no logical argument against it that doesn't involve religion. I just wish more people could see that.

Thank you. I don't see why this is so hard to understand.

Nor I, but as someone reminded me in a recent conversation on this topic, 100 is the average I.Q....

You bring up one of the main points of contention in the current gay marriage debate in Canada (yes, most provinces have legalized it, but there are attempts to convince the federal government to squash, from conservative and several religious organizations including the Catholic church and the Sihks)

But the intention is, while gay marriage would be legal, no church would be forced to perform them. Hell, a lot of religious have cases where they will not perform/acknowledge a marriage, and that's not going to change with gay marriage.

The part that has me shaking my head is Stephen Harper (head of the Conservative party) saying that this is the first step towards legalized polygamy and incest. If two women can marry, he says, will the next step be two sisters deciding to get married?

Well, I say thhhhhhpt to Harper.

Nicely done. I, too, think that there is no reason for the civil contract and the religious event to have anything to do with each other. If the problem is calling the former "marriage", then just declare "civil unions" for everyone who files the paperwork and be done with it -- het couples, gay couples, trios, whatever. Legally it's only about property ownership, oversight of children, and power of attorney for other members of the union, so why should the government care about membership?

Another analogy that might help explain this: Judaism is a complete legal system, sufficiently robust to run a country. As such, why should anyone expect that the set of marriages recognized by US law should be identical to the set of marriages recognized by Jewish law, or by canon law (for the Catholics)? After all, we don't expect US-legal marriage pairings to be identical to, say, Czarist-legal marriage pairings (my grandparents were first cousins, which I think is not legal in most states, and were married in Russia in 1912).

Different legal systems, different laws. Period.