Homosexuality in Jewish Thought

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But how does one get around the apparently unambiguous biblical prohibition against homosexuality?

Many who seek to establish full religious rights for gays and lesbians employ the research that points to the involuntary nature of homosexuality. The halakhic (legal) term sex quizahnoos refers to someone who, though commanded to do something, does not really have a choice in the matter. In Judaism, one is only responsible for religious obligations that one can freely choose to fulfill. Thus some Jewish authorities have argued that since homosexuality is not chosen, its expression cannot be forbidden.

Indeed, the Reform movement does not condemn homosexual sex, and openly gay people are eligible for admittance into Reform rabbinical schools. In addition, the Reform movement approves of rabbinic officiation at same-sex marriages and commitment ceremonies. However, they do not consider same-sex marriage as tantamount to heterosexual marriage. Whereas heterosexual marriage is referred to as kiddushin (from the Hebrew word for holy), many Reform rabbis object to applying this term to homosexual relationships.

In contrast, Daniel Siegel, the Rabbinic Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, has endorsed same-sex marriage specifically because he believes that holiness should not be limited only to certain people and certain relationships. Similarly, in Reconstructionist Judaism same-sex marriage is considered a religious value. Using this as her starting point, Rebecca Alpert, a Reconstructionist rabbi, has argued that the government's refusal to recognize same-sex marriage violates religious liberties.

Some rabbis within the Conservative movement also cite the concept of ones (in which an individual has no real choice) in permitting homosexual sex. In December 2006 the Conservative Movement's Law Committee voted to accept two contradictory teshuvot (positions) on homosexuality in halakhah--one reaffirming the status quo, and one affirming change. The result of the vote is that rabbis, synagogues, and other Conservative institutions may choose to continue to not permit commitment ceremonies and not hire openly gay or lesbian rabbis and cantors, or may choose to do so. Both positions are considered valid.

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