Torah for Today – 17/04/14

Torah for Today – 17/04/14

Torah For TodayWhat the Torah says about…gay marriage

By Rabbi Yisroel Newman

As I’m sure everyone reading this is already aware, the same- sex marriage law has now been passed in the UK.

Living in New York, I remember when the law was enacted here in 2011, granting homosexual men and women the opportunity to be married.

As an Orthodox rabbi and being ever mindful of what is written in Leviticus, the entire chapter is paradoxical.

I communicate with people – some of whom are close friends – who are religious Jews, and they’ve confided in me secretly about the lives they live, in which they attempt to conceal their homosexuality from their loved ones while they are surrounded by the Orthodox Jewish community.

I’m also painfully aware of the inevitable relapse that follows so-called “corrective” therapy for homosexuality, with many of those “treated” reluctantly entering unfulfilling conventional marriages, inflicting harm and loneliness both on themselves and their spouses.

While it is a clear and apparent prohibition and abomination for a Jewish male to be involved in a sexual relationship with another man, the scholar Maimonides points out that it is also forbidden for a non-Jew to take part in such a union.

Since we live in countries ruled by non-Jewish governments, the Bible and its commentaries don’t govern the lawmakers, yet for an Orthodox Jew who does uphold those values, it’s tenuous.

I am generally of the opinion that we should “live and let live”. There are many people living their lives the way they feel best, and that does not always go according to the Torah. What makes the person who doesn’t keep Shabbat to the utmost any different from one who is more attracted to his same gender?

Many believe homosexuality is the most immoral sin that one could commit. Yet I believe it to be a religious prohibition rather than a moral one.

In that vein, I am of the opinion that the government should stay out of marriage and leave it to clergymen. What should be available is a civil union, which would entitle the same-sex couple to the same benefits as those received by a conventional husband and wife.

A rabbi cannot condone the act of homosexuality, and that is the furthest thing from my mind as I write this article. However, there are many in the Jewish communities who have come to terms with the fact that heterosexuality is not for them.

If they feel that a union together with their partner is what they ultimately feel is right, then so be it. But no, I’m not available to officiate.

• Rabbi Newman lives in New York. He can be contacted at and you can follow him on Twitter @askrabbiteddy

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