Orthodox rabbi’s dilemma over same-sex marriage

A HIGH profile Sydney rabbi has revealed that the ongoing debate about civil same-sex marriage is causing him inner conflict.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence from Sydney’s oldest congregation, The Great Synagogue, said he is trying to reconcile two key principles that he lives by.

“The first is that I believe that the Torah defines the ideals to which we should adhere and through which we should strive to elevate humanity,” Rabbi Lawrence said to The AJN.

“The second is the firm conviction that in Australian society in 2013 it is discriminatory to deny any couple the right to a civil marriage and full social equality on the basis of gender or sexuality.”

Rabbi Lawrence said that within Judaism concepts of love between two people, the desire for companionship and the desire to commit to enduring relationships are positives which transcend gender.

He revealed his conflict on SBS’s Insight program last Tuesday night.

The show, which focused on the same-sex marriage debate, also featured Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia president Rabbi Moshe Gutnick and Progressive Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio as guests.

Rabbi Ninio said that she performs commitment ceremonies between same-sex couples, and that if she could legally perform same-sex marriages then she would.

“All people were created in the image of God, that’s what the Torah tells us and then the Torah tells us that people are not meant to be alone,” Rabbi Ninio said.

“We’re supposed to be in relationships and I believe sexuality is part of how we’re created, and the God that I believe in, I don’t believe would want people to hide that part of themselves or to not have that part of themselves be part of something that’s holy and sanctified.”

Rabbi Gutnick said while he believes “there are great same-sex parents who will raise children wonderfully”, he can’t support same sex marriage because the biblical Jewish definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, reflecting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.