Homosexuality, Human Dignity & Halakhah: A Combined Resonsum (Rabbinical Assembly)

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A. Piskei Din: Legal Findings
Based upon our study of halakhic precedents regarding both sexual norms and human dignity, we reach the following conclusions:
1. The explicit biblical ban on anal sex between men remains in effect. Gay men are instructed to refrain from anal sex.
2. Heterosexual marriage between two Jews remains the halakhic ideal. For homosexuals who are incapable of maintaining a heterosexual relationship, the rabbinic prohibitions that have been associated with other gay and lesbian intimate acts are superseded based upon the Talmudic principle of kvod habriot, our obligation to preserve the human dignity of all people.
3. This ruling effectively normalizes the status of gay and lesbian Jews in the Jewish community. Extending the 1992 CJLS consensus statement, gay and lesbian Jews are to be welcomed into our synagogues and other institutions as full members with no restrictions. Furthermore, gay or lesbian Jews who demonstrate the depth of Jewish commitment, knowledge, faith and desire to serve as rabbis, cantors and educators shall be welcomed to apply to our professional schools and associations.
4. We are not prepared at this juncture to rule upon the halakhic status of gay and lesbian relationships. To do so would require establishing an entirely new institution in Jewish law that treats not only the ceremonies and legal instruments appropriate for creating homosexual unions but also the norms for the dissolution of such unions. This responsum does not provide kiddushin for same-sex couples. Nonetheless, we consider stable, committed, Jewish relationships to be as necessary and beneficial for homosexuals and their families as they are for heterosexuals. Promiscuity is not acceptable for either homosexual or heterosexual relationships. Such relationships should be conducted in consonance with the values set out in the RA pastoral letter on intimate relationships, “This Is My Beloved, This Is My Friend”: A Rabbinic Letter on Human
Intimacy. The celebration of such a union is appropriate.
B. Afterword
This subject has riveted the attention and commanded the energies of us as individuals and of our movement to a greater extent than any other topic in recent memory. Given the fact that observant Jews who are gay or lesbian constitute a small minority of the Jewish people, this might seem surprising. The great importance of this topic signifies a broader attempt to understand the nature of human dignity in our time.

We realize that it will take time for our congregations and other arms of the Conservative movement to develop a consensus on this challenging subject. The concepts and policies we have advocated represent a sea change in attitude within traditional Judaism. There is a genuine conflict between our ancient heterosexual ideal and our imperative to safeguard the dignity of gay and lesbian Jews. We must dedicate significant efforts toeducationat all levels of our movement. Respectful disagreement on this subject is a sign of strength, not weakness, within Conservative Judaism.

However, we must emphasize that even those opposed to our halakhic reasoning and piskei din remain obligated to show compassion to their fellow Jews who are homosexual. What once seemed like a willful rejection of the Torah’s ideal of heterosexual marriage is now understood to be a profound desire by gay and lesbian Jews to sanctify their lives and to establish faithful families guided by the light of Torah. In addressing this challenge, we have been determined to safeguard the integrity of both the halakhic system, which is our mechanism for following God’s teaching, and also the dignity of our fellow men and women, who are created in the very image of God. We pray that our work will strengthen the Jewish people in its sacred task of establishing holy communities, raising Jewish children, and sharing the light of Torah with the entire world. May God prosper the work of our hands.

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