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Same-sex marriage and Judaism

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Homosexuality and same-sex marriage in Judaism have been subjects of contention within modern Jewish denominations, leading to debate and division. The prevalent view among Jews had been to regard homosexual intercourse as sinful, arguing that it is categorically forbidden by the Torah. This remains the current view of Orthodox Judaism, but not of Reconstructionist Judaism and Reform Judaism. Conservative Judaism's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which until December 2006 held the same position as Orthodoxy, recently issued multiple opinions under its philosophy of pluralism, with one opinion continuing to follow the Orthodox position and another opinion substantially liberalizing its view of homosexuals and homosexual relationships while continuing to regard certain sexual acts as prohibited.

In the Jewish state of Israel in 2006, where there is widespread support for same-sex civil marriage,[1] the Supreme Court ordered the government to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad. The case was filed by five male Israeli couples married in Canada.[2] The ruling dealt with the registration of the marriage in Israel, noting that it does not refer to the validity of those marriage. However, same sex couples in Israel enjoy most of the rights of married couples, as unmarried opposite sex couples.

Branches of Judaism

Reform Judaism

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) supports the inclusion of same-sex unions within the definition of marriage.[3] The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation leaves the choice to individual rabbis.[4]

Conservative Judaism

Some Conservative Jews reject recognition of same-sex unions as marriages, but permit celebration of commitment ceremonies, in part as an expression their belief that scripture requires monogamy of all sexually active couples.[5]

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism maintains the traditional Jewish bans on both sexual acts and marriage amongst members of the same sex.[6] The Orthodox Union in the United States supported a federal Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.[7] However, there are Orthodox Jews supporting gay inclusion,[8], and some Orthodox Jews have adopted a gay lifestyle and support Gay Rights;[9] a documentary called Trembling Before G-d has been made about this. For example, Steven Greenberg, an Orthodox ordained rabbi who after ordination adopted a gay lifestyle has spoken in favour of same-sex marriage, as a civil marriage; he is uncertain about religious same-sex marriage, but intends to study it.[10]

Same-sex marriage in Midrash

The Midrash is one of the few ancient religious texts that makes reference to Homosexual marriage. The following teaching can be found twice in the Midrash:

"Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Joseph, 'The generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote marriage documents for the union of a man to a male or to an animal.'"[11]


In February 2009 Knesset member Nitzan Horowitz introduced a same-sex marriage bill.[12]

A poll conducted in August 2009 found that 61% of Israelis supported same-sex civil marriage, with 31% opposed. Furthermore, 60% supported joint adoption by same-sex couples, with 34% opposed.[13]


  1. Homosexuality an Aberration for Many Israelis
  2. International Herald Tribune - Israel's Supreme Court approves same-sex marriages performed abroad
  3. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Civil Marriage for Gay and Lesbian Jewish Couples (adopted by the General Assembly 1997) (visited January 20, 2008).
  4. "FAQ's on Reconstructionist Approaches to Jewish ideas and Practices". Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  5. Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, Homosexuality, Human Dignity, & Halakhah: A Combined Responsum for the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (approved by a majority of the Committee on Dec. 6, 2006) at (visited January 20, 2008)
  6. Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Orthodox Response to Same-Sex Marriage, NY Jewish Week (Mar. 26, 2004) (visited January 20, 2008)
  8. "Do Black Hats Come in Pink? Orthodox Judaism finally begins to face gay rights.", Steven I. Weiss,
  11. Genesis Rabbah 26:5; Leviticus Rabbah 23:9
  12. Israeli Knesset To Consider Gay Marriage
  13. Homosexuality an Aberration for Many Israelis

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