Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet
The author is a writer, broadcaster & international lecturer. He is rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue in London England and blogs at shul.co.uk/rabbi Follow Rabbi Schochet on twitter @rabbiyys and on his facebook page facebook.com/RabbiYYS.
Gay marriage is presently being debated and voted upon in the House of Commons. As is all too often the case, emotions run high when discussing this hot topic.
The hard fact is that gay people inevitably take offence to any sort of negative connotation associated with homosexuality.
Truth be told, without religion there would be no basis for my objection to homosexuality. But then again without religion there would be no basis for objection to all sorts of standards of living. This invariably results in attacks on religion by the gay community, and I understand where they are coming from.
But they too must understand where I am coming from.
Upholding religion does not render one homophobic, for even as my religion objects to homosexual activity, it does not sanction discrimination against gay individuals. I have no issue with any individual, regardless of sexual orientation. Moreover, even as my religion compels me to reject homosexuality, it also enjoins me to keep kosher, honour my parents and to love my neighbour.
I maintain that it is therefore wrong to shine the spotlight on one Biblical prohibition over others. That there are those that might do so does indeed imply some homophobic undercurrent and gives religion a bad name.
But there are going to be times when statements and protestations are deemed necessary. Not because there’s ever an excuse to lash out against homosexuals, but because some fundamentals of society are being encroached upon. My objection to gay marriage is not because I have an issue with gay people, but because I have an issue with marriage being redefined.
I subscribe to the notion of ‘live and let live.’ But I completely disagree with efforts to interfere and undermine one style in order to build something else.
It is hypocritical for the government to effectively impose their secular agenda on a religious institution while condemning religious leaders from making a religious judgment on the same secular agenda.
Why the need to redefine marriage into something other than what it always is? Marriage was always defined as between man and woman and seen as a special institution ordained by G-d. To redefine marriage is essentially to redefine religion.
Furthermore, if you redefine marriage where does the line get drawn and who gets to draw that line? Several years ago Louisville, Kentucky native Cory Moore legally married his 2004 Cherry ES-335 guitar. “The day I got her, I just knew she was the one,” Moore stated when reached for comment. “I know it seems weird, but I really love her - like, really love her, with all my heart. I just wanted to make it official.” In 2006 Sharon Tendler, a 41-year-old British citizen, apparently became the world's first person to marry a dolphin. “I do love this dolphin. He's the love of my life,” she said.
Lest I be condemned for belittling gay relationships, I am not drawing a comparison between guitars, dolphins and gay people. I am however, comparing the rights of anyone who chooses to redefine marriage to suit their own relationships.
Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in the classroom and cause conflict of interest in religious state-aided or religious free schools. And government assurances that this won’t impact on religious leaders who refuse to officiate at such ceremonies does little to prevent such leaders from being labelled bigoted and ultimately being challenged in a court of law for human rights violations.
This is not about equal rights because civil partnerships already have the same rights as married partners. This is about forcing a new definition on one type of relationship while at the same time undermining a time-hallowed institution as defined by another type of relationship. That cannot be democratically correct and raises the ire of many an individual who then questions what the ulterior agenda is here – only of course to be castigated and labelled homophobic.
“What difference does it make what we call it?” one gay vicar asked me. My reply: “Precisely.”