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Points of View
Values and Compassion
My Point of View, Nov 12, 2004
© Rabbi Jack Moline

There is no more foolish debate in this country than the struggle over a Constitutional amendment defining marriage. While people can genuinely disagree with respect and sensitivity over the basic issue involved, the attempt to elevate the argument to Constitutional levels diverts attention from careful consideration to political posturing. Quite simply, most people do not know enough about homosexuality and marriage to make a decision they won't regret later. A similar attempt to legislate abstinence from alcohol has left a permanent record of impulsiveness on our country's sacred covenant.

Unquestionably, our society has evolved in the way we discuss homosexuality. A generation ago, the whiff of homosexuality was cause for dismissal from most jobs, including government positions. Homosexual men were stereotyped for comic relief or disdain as both effeminate and predatory; women were similarly painted as masculine and emasculating. And mothers were blamed for it all. Now, it is difficult to find a credible voice for those assumptions, even among people who consider homosexuality aberrant.

In a sense, the very debate over same-sex unions is a mark of that evolution. It is the inevitable result of other societal conversations about the conventions of interpersonal intimacy. Right or wrong, the willingness of heterosexual couples to comport themselves as "married" without the sacraments of marriage has raised questions of civil rights for homosexual couples: if a live-in relationship between a man and a woman entitles them each to a claim on the other's property and benefits, then does the same standard apply to two people of the same sex? And if that man and woman wish to formalize those claims (or must necessarily protect themselves from them), should not same-sex couples have the same opportunity (or need)?

In another sense, the visceral responses to both sides of the question have obscured the real issues. Why is marriage necessary at all? What is the purpose of a formalized union? What are the individual's sexual responsibilities beyond personal satisfaction including within and without heterosexual marriage? And for us, how are all of these matters addressed by our binding covenant with God?

Below, you will find information about my first attempt to discuss these issues with you. The only two things I guarantee are that the text I have chosen will provoke serious consideration of the issues involved from a deep grounding in Jewish sources and contemporary scholarship, and that this discussion has only begun.

Reread this article if you have concluded that I have resolved these matters to my own satisfaction. I have not. I am struggling to remain open to where my heart and my studies lead me, but to capitulate to neither until I am certain they are leading me in the same direction.

So give up on the political argument and come discuss the issues. We have a long road to travel.


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