Rabbis support civil marriage for lesbians, gay men 5 Reform movement vote could influence states


PHILADELPHIA -- The Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1,750 rabbis of the liberal Reform movement, voted yesterday to support civil marriage for lesbians and gay men and to oppose governmental efforts to bar such unions.

The resolution of the central conference, which passed resoundingly by voice vote at its convention here, has no practical religious consequences, since it avoids the question of rabbis officiating at same-sex marriages. But it could have considerable political impact, coming as state legislatures around the nation are debating the issue in anticipation that Hawaii may allow marriages of people of the same sex next year.

The Reform rabbis were mindful of their timing and the potent message they were sending by allying leaders of a large, mainstream religious denomination with advocates of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.

"There is an urgency here," Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff of Temple Emanu El in Westfield, N.J., told the several hundred participants. "The action of this conference will be a powerful statement."

At the same time, it underscored a stark division in Judaism over the place of homosexuals in society. Orthodox rabbinical groups believe that homosexual relationships violate Jewish law.

The Conservative group of rabbis, known as the Rabbinical Assembly, has not taken a position on civil marriage but disapproves of rabbis officiating at same-sex commitment ceremonies.

Rabbis from the smaller, liberal Reconstructionist branch have been performing such ceremonies for years, with the support of their movement.

Some Reform rabbis perform religious unions for couples of the same sex, under the name of commitment ceremonies or even marriages. Others refuse to do so. The central conference is studying whether gay and lesbian unions can be ritually sanctified and expects to vote on the matter next year.

Fifteen legislatures have bills before them intended to deny recognition to gay and lesbian marriages, in the event that Hawaiian courts rule next year that marriage licenses must be granted to couples of the same sex.

Last week, Idaho became the third state to pass legislation barring the recognition of same-sex marriages, joining South Dakota and Utah. But Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado vetoed such a bill on Monday.

Pub Date: 3/29/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.