Jewish drive for same sex marriage

December 5, 2011 by Roy Freeman
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Over a dozen members of the Jewish community marched alongside J4ME (the Jewish Community supporting Marriage Equality) in this weekend’s rally, with many others participating in the 5,000-10,000-strong crowd that marched from Hyde Park to the Labor Party Conference in Darling Harbour.

Demonstrating for same sex marriage

Roy Freeman

Following months of lobbying, the Labor Party voted at the weekend to support marriage equality. However, to placate the party’s right wing, an amendment was added allowing for a conscience vote which means that any bill is likely to fail before Parliament because of Labor’s slim majority.

This news had already hit the streets by the time the rally began and the atmosphere was one of excitement. We knew progress had been made and that the Labor Party platform had been changed in favour of marriage equality, but there were feelings of frustration and betrayal about the conscience vote as the realisation sunk in that more work will still need to be done before there’s a change to the law.

The leader of the Opposition has long made his stance on same-sex marriage very well known, but he will now be pressured to allow a conscience vote for his members too. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Abbott said this weekend “There’s a sense in which every vote in the Liberal Party is a conscience vote because we don’t expel people for exercising their judgment, unlike the Labor Party”, however he stated today that the party still strongly opposes marriage equality.

Roy Freeman, founder of J4ME, said today, “There was an amazing atmosphere at the rally, with the largest turn-out of any marriage rally so far. There was a real sense of achievement, but also of frustration with the conscience vote decision.. The Labor Party have given with one hand, but taken away with the other.”

“There are many in the Jewish community who are affected by the current ban on same-sex marriage. Many Jewish families have a gay or lesbian relative and currently, many of them are pushed to the sidelines of the religion. While some families are accepting of their GLBT relatives and their partners, others are not. Many are ostracised from their families and they often turn their backs on the religion that made them feel so unwelcome. Some families accept their gay and lesbian relatives’ sexuality to a point, but it is often a taboo subject, and their partners are never acknowledged or invited to simchas and yom tovim. I believe that the introduction of marriage equality for the GLBT community is as important as the legalisation of homosexuality was. As long as the law continues to discriminate against us, society will consider our relationship second-class. All we’re asking for is equal recognition under Federal law. No religious organisations will be forced to perform any marriages they do not currently perform.”

Peter Wertheim, the executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told J-Wire that his organisation had no policy in place relating to same sex marriage.

But the organisation has recently updated its position on gay rights.

The ECAJ released its current position at its recent AGM:


31A. Counteracting hatred and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons




This Council:


RECOGNISES that the Australian Jewish community is part of the Jewish people worldwide, with a shared history, culture and religious tradition is at the same time diverse and pluralistic, with its members holding different views on a range of issues;


CALLS FOR mutual respect for the human dignity of all members of the community, despite any strongly held differences; recognition that disagreement is possible in ways that do not vilify other persons or their views; and avoidance of any public or private conduct that incites hatred , ridicule or contempt of another person or class of persons on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity; and, in accordance with the foregoing principles;


OPPOSES any form of hatred of any person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity;


ACKNOWLEDGES that there is still much work to be done to remove intolerance of and unlawful discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the Jewish community and the wider Australian community, and to provide adequate services and support for them and their families; and


CALLS ON persons and organisations in the Jewish community to support that work both in our community and in the wider Australian community.


26 Responses to “Jewish drive for same sex marriage”
  1. Mosh Mok says:

    My issue is consideration of “best interests of children” principle
    as that is considered part of marriage.
    Medical research ( eg )
    indicates that absence of either biological parent in the developing offspring environment,
    causes brain retardation of the offspring
    This is a medical issue, the cautionary principal must be applied,
    “best interests of children’!

    • No doubt Mosh you’re equally concerned about the children of women who’s male partner has abandoned them or died, or whom the mother has left because of abuse, neglect or simply because they’ve gone their own ways.

      In life people raise children as best as they can, under the circumstances available to them. A child with two loving parents is doing far better than a child with no loving parents, biological or otherwise.

      When you’re the perfect parent, I’m sure you’ll be best placed to tell the world the secrets of your success.


    • PS. Marriage under Australian civil law does not legislate for reproduction (or that both parties be fertile and prepared to become parents). Similarly, marriage is not a prerequisite for parenthood.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Shellie Braverman & Co.

    The stuff regarding the denial of civil rights stands like this :

    One can only be denied rigths that are already afirmed, that is to say, if the civil right of same sex marriage would have been legislated but not afforded, then you can make a case of non compliance and demand that your RIGHTS be resepected.
    All I am saying is that you are not expressing your hysteria in a rational, causal and consequential manner.
    I am sure that there is no specific point at law that justifies the claim that marriage, as definied by existing principles,legal and implicitely ethical, may be extended to anything else but between opposite gender.
    The pressures and agruments you are advancing are of the emotional nature,not compelling by virtue of existing principle.Personal happiness is incredibly insuficient an argument……… But,as I said prior, the entire campaign of same sex marriage has NEVER touched the margins of any logic and, yet, it is working quite efficiently.
    So ,there is no need to inflate the air with cries of persecution, nor, it seems, reasonable argument has any chance of prevailing.How perverse !

  3. Shellie Braverman says:

    Correction- I also argue for intersex identified people. Apologies for not including you.

  4. Shellie Braverman says:

    to my mind, the debate over whether same sex attracted people are immoral or against Judaism is one that I don’t feel the need to participate in, but cannot help myself. Being same sex attracted  is not something I need to defend because my replying to that argument implicitly gives validity to the very questioning of my right to exist.  Are Jews worthy of civil rights? Are people of colour? To see this question as any different when discussing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is offensive.  To say it is immoral can be liked to saying that Jews have to argue for their right to exist, or people of colour need to argue for their place in the world. We are no less important or valuable. 
     There are different ways of being. That is all. If one cannot understand or accept our right to civil rights, then so be it but don’t block our right to them. Same sex civil rights will only affect us, noone else. All my community seeks is the right to exist as full citizens, just as all Jews do. I have no desire to justify our right to this; I am what I am with no justification or apology or need to prove otherwise. All I request is my civil rights. 

    • Emes says:

      Same-sex civil rights is not the issue under debate. It is whether the term “marriage” can be applied to same-sex relationships.

      Judaism does not permit homosexual relationships, but there are also many other activities the Torah is against. Regardless, the people who chose to follow their own moral judgements cannot be persecuted for their beliefs. However, to sanctify their behaviour under the banner of marital recognition is hypocrisy.

      • What is hypocrisy is when certain people want to impose their religious beliefs on the entire population for just one single issue and not every issue.

  5. Shellie Braverman says:

    to my mind, the debate over whether same sex attracted people are immoral or against Judaism is one that I don’t feel the need to participate in, but cannot help myself. Being same sex attracted  is not something I need to defend because my replying to that argument implicitly gives validity to the very questioning of my right to exist.  Are Jews worthy of civil rights? Are people of colour? To see this question as any different when discussing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is offensive.  To say it is immoral can be liked to saying that Jews have to argue for their right to exist, or people of colour need to argue for their place in the world. We are no less important or valuable. 
     There are different ways of being. That is all. If one cannot understand or accept our right to civil rights, then so be it but don’t block our right to them. Same sex civil rights will only affect us, noone else. All my community seeks is the right to exist as full citizens, just as all Jews do. I have no desire to justify our right to this; I am what I am with no justification or apology or need to prove otherwise. All I request is my civil rights. 
    Shellie Braverman

  6. Roy Freeman says:

    So in one paragraph you have compared and equated homosexual relationships with drug-taking and bestiality. Thanks for sharing your opinion but I choose to disagree and I choose to continue to push for marriage equality in civil law.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Not nice, Roy, to turn logic into farcical activism. The analogies are NON substantive. The only matters in that one paragraph was strict logic.
      Once again, the logic pertains to the use and misuse of statistics. Once you employ simple figures in your ethical argument you are, strictly speaking, using a precise method in your argumentative favour. The two issues , therefore are:

      – statistics and their relevance to the acceptance of one practice within a predermined cathegory ( the legal character ofmarriage as conventionally accepted )
      – affection and its relevance in the same cathegory.

      This what has been promoted here as valid, i.e. the virtue of persistence, activism as conducive to legal success. By your reaction, Roy, it also elicited the virtue of falacy as a means to the same efficiency.
      As long as youse guys shall abuse logic and will not face the above rationale, the one I adopted, and people, legilstors etc. will fall for it, you shall be , indeed, very successful. So far, nil disperandum, you are doing exceedingly well and people like me shall become an intellectually persecuted minority.
      Just you wait for a carnival of logic up and down Taylor Square with academics marching stark naked, as the truth they are deprived of. That will simply outclass the one in which we are regaled with the best of underwear, Jewish included, as the main feature, to be followed by the legalisation of logic, which shall be the end of this world as you know it.
      Roy, you have no idea how clearly I anticipated your reply, almost to the last sylable !

  7. Otto Waldmann says:


    A couple of necessary corrections:

    – in the photo above there is banner claiming the ” Jewish community support etc.”. fairly speaking, the overall generic of our community is misleadingly represented. To be precise and honest, “Certain Jews support etc. ” which is accurate.

    – The danger with adding compelling ethical value to statistics is that, should your assessemnt of practice and approval of gay life style be converted into law, then let’s look at the practice and approval of drug use in Australia. Can even higher percentages compell the legalisation of it !!!
    I am NOT suggesting that gay life style would not be Illegal as such, but the demands that Law should be tailored on demands which are defiantly designed to radically change the very substance of certain laws. I agree that formal arrangements must be secured legally on ANY types of human relationships,thus establishing legal safety. The intrusion, however,into established norms does not make sense. Not ALLrealtionships can be branded nominally identical. Without being offensive, some humans have incredibly intense affection for their pets and some pets would develop such dependable emmotional states on their keepers that we often see humans stating sincerely that whatever pet is like a human to them etc. Can we, then accept a human demanding that he or she is… married to his or her pooch. I reckon YES, based on your logic. And let us not turn hysterical !!!!

  8. Peter says:

    Whatever people do in their home is their business; however, gay marriage has no place in any civilised society. G-d created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Marriage is a union between 2 people of the opposite sex. Gays have the option for a civil union and that should suffice. To force the Jewish community to take a stand on this issue just because less than one percent of Jews (as well as the entire population as a whole) happen to be gay is ridiculous.

    Things must really be mixed upside down if the most pressing issue in society today has become gay marriage. The world-wide economy is falling apart, people are starving in many third world countries, people are sick in the hospital with diseases and conditions which can’t be cured or even treated, nations are going broke, our international infrastructures – roads, railroads, airports, bridges, etc., are falling apart, westernized countries barely have any manufacturing base as almost all of our goods are imported from China (and most of these goods are inferior) and all guys like Roy Freeman care about is gay marriage.

    Mr. Freeman and your associates: please don’t call me anti-gay or a bigot or a racist, etc.; rather people like me oppose gay marriage on moral, religious and and traditional guidelines and we feel that there are a million more pressing issues world-wide which need immediate attention.

    If Mr. Freeman is looking for a worthwhile cause then let him participate in a good movement like Doctors without Borders. Or work in a soup kitichen. Or visit the sick in the hospital. Otherwise, Mr. Freeman don’t drag the Jewish community as a whole into this issue and perhaps you and your friends should get a life and do something productive for society. Attempting to shove gay marriage down society’s throat as a life and death issue is not the way to go.

    • Roy Freeman says:

      Thanks for your comments Peter. Unfortunately, your arguments are based on some pretty incorrect statistics. The largest and most thorough survey in Australia (2001/2002) found that 1.6% of men identified as gay and 0.9% as bisexual and for women 0.8% as lesbian and 1.4% as bisexual. Nevertheless, 8.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported either feelings of attraction to the same gender or some sexual experience with the same gender.

      According to the ABS, the Jewish population of Australia was 88,834 in the 2006 census, equating to 0.43%. I am sure you agree that the rights of the Jewish community should be protected under civil law, even with such a small population. You were most likely up in arms when there was talk of banning Kashrut in Australia a few months ago. How would you feel if someone claiming they weren’t anti-Semitic told you that Kashrut should be banned because it affected less than 1% of the population?

      Your argument about marriage equality being insignificant works against you. This issue has only come to the fore because of the last Government’s amendment to the Marriage Act in 2006 and the current Government’s refusal to budge on the issue. I agree that we should be focussing on other issues. Marriage equality should have been a non-issue as has been the case in a number of other countries. Canada legalised same-sex marriage over six years ago, Denmark over 12, with no repercussions and rather than destroy marriage, divorce rates in those countries have dropped. It’s only because of self-proclaimed non-bigots and non-homophobes that we are still debating it here.

      Ultimately, the legalisation of same-sex marriage will not affect your own life one little bit. Orthodox Judaism will not be forced to accept it, nor will it be forced to perform same-sex marriages. The GLBT community simply wants equality; for our relationships to be recognised and to be treated equally under civil law. Civil unions are not equal to marriage and do not provide a solution.

      And finally, in response to your rather unnecessary and incredibly presumptious personal attack, I regularly donate to charity and I help my community on a daily basis with every spare moment I have:

      • A minor correction. The amendment to the Marriage Act was in 2004.

        I recommend to those objecting to marriage equality that they read the Same Sex Marriage Chronicle. It rationally debunks most arguments against marriage equality. After reading the chronicle I would encourage readers to post their unanswered questions for consideration and response by the author.

    • Shellie Braverman says:

      Dear Peter,
      In your attempt to present an analysis of socio-global issues, you have mentioned a number of important, stark issues surrounding human rights. What you have neglected to recognise is the level of human rights violations facing same sex attracted men and women in the world and within the Jewish community at large, even here in Australia. Perhaps before declaring that a social movement is ‘dragging down’ the Jewish community, you should consider thoroughly the implications of what a social group is subjectively experiencing, and why they are fighting for. What if it were the Jews who were not permitted to participate in civil basic rights? As a gay woman, It hurts me to not be allowed to participate in civil ritual. To have these rights is not hurting other causes; it is fueling the understanding that all peolpe should be treated as fully human.

      I am not one to compare different civil rights movements per se, other then the pusuit of historical or sociological data. Another way they can be compared is to see how society views these movements decades later. I am sure that movements of recent history were frowned upon at the time and seen as excessively priveleged by some. Today it is understood how necessary to the very fabric of ethics and humanity such movements were. In my opinion, this movement for equal civil rights for gay and lesbian couples and individuals will also be looked back upon with an understanding that civil rights are for all people and the basis of this equality brings good to all. Sincerely Shellie Braverman, Sydney

  9. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Alex
    thanks for the compliment,including the one deeming me remiss of intelligence.
    Insulting Jews is, again,something I abhore. If certain individuals given to certain beliefs feel offended if warned that , as their beliefs difer from other , they cannot, as a consequence, be considered similar with those holding other beliefs, then the insult should be removed and replaced with a kind direction to elementary, mathematical indeed, logic.
    Progresive Judaism holds a vast number of beliefs and respective practices cardinally opposed to Orthodox Judaism. In a certain way, since both distinct beliefs and practices brandish the term “Judaism” in certain respects one could asume that we could accept the vast generic of Jewish common belonging.

    You must accept that the emergence and progression of …Progressive, Liberal, Neolog Judaism, the famous Haskala, was an intentional, purposefully designed, exercise of ostensive DEPARTURE from known and hitheto accepted practices. The entire history of Haskala is replete with attitudes and positive statements of blatant defiance of reformed Jews against traditional, orthodox Judaism.In one of my recent lectures on the origins of anti Semitism I mentioned a most offensive anti Orthodox attitude of a champion of Reform, one Michael Kraisenach who, in 1843 proposed the abolition of most of the fundamental tenets of Judaism in the spirit of creating a “new” ( i.e.Neolog ) faith, still considered by HIM Jewish. The departure was intentional as to leave behind the “shackles of a backward faith ” i.e. Orthodox Judaism.
    Based on that, and other such evidence, how can anyone argue that the Progressive strand is not, in fact,not a simple strand, but a distinct mode of approaching spirituality !
    One may derive from the above that I strongly believe that “diversity” of strands make for colourful hair ornaments, but when it comes to logical arrangements there is NO such oxymoron.

  10. David Austin says:

    Just because someone opposes gay marriage does NOT mean that person is homophobic. Gaybashing, whether with words, behaviour or outright assault, is despicable. In fact it is against Torah.

    But Torah also has something to say about homosexuality. Sure, it must be tough on someone who is gay by nature. Being physically different often is tough on people. They deserve our respect and do not deserve our vilification. But that does not change the values of Torah.

    As for the views of”progressive” judaism – we have seen many strands and flavours of Jewish thinking down the ages. Only one ‘strand’ has endured for millenia, and we should recognise that whether we like it or not.

    A very wise friend of mine came up with a revolutionary answer to the gay mariage issue and the more I think about it the more I like the idea. It is simple. Abolish the Commonwealth Marriage Act. If people want a union ceremony let them have one – according to their faith or conscience. Let the government’s interfernce be restricted to questions of money – inheritance, pensions and so forth.

    But until then, as far as I am concerned, marriage is, at its centre, an institution designed to promote and ecourage procreation. For this reason ‘same sex’ marriage is out of the question.

    • Roy Freeman says:

      @David, your answer is to abolish civil marriage altogether? So those who choose not to affiliate with any particular religion lose the right to marry? That’s rather restrictive, don’t you think? How about a system where civil marriage and religious marriage are independent from each other? France, for example, does this. You have a legally-recognised civil marriage and then if you choose to do so, you have a religious ceremony too.

      A number of the responses here appear to be under the impression that the Jewish Orthodox view of marriage is under attack. The marriage equality campaign is calling for civil marriage between non-heterosexual couples to be legalised. Religious organisations who do not wish to perform those marriages will not be compelled to. Those organisations who wish to, will be able to.

      The belief that Orthodox Judaism is immune to change is also incorrect. The Orthodox position on marriage once allowed polygamy and this is obviously no longer the case.

      This is obviously a very emotive issue, but in the same way that Judaism doesn’t insist that civil law impose our Kashrut laws on the rest of society, the same should be true of marriage!

  11. Otto Waldmann says:

    How do you explain the obvious to those determined to listen with deaf dispositions to reason.
    Rabbi Raymond Apple, who, incidentally married me to my FEMALE ( and stunning at that ) wife at the Great some 30 years back, explained clearly and with dignity what our Torah says about marriage.
    So blatantly evidently opposed is the Progressive’s stance that one cannot talk about the SAME religion.
    Rabbi Apple’s and my position is NOT one of hatred or vilification by the Jewish acceptance of the principle and practice of marriage.The esteemed Rabbi is simply INFORMING all and sundry what the actual Jewish faith says about the matter.
    I do NOT hate at all gays and lesbians !!! When it comes, however, to religious determination I happen to believe that Rabbi Apple is right and his oponenets,i.e. the Pregressives, are NOT representing the Jewish stance as I accept it. They represent, obviously, something diferent, therefore NOT Jewish ! Clear logic. Prof. Phelps’ views are those of soemone who, also in my view, has not joined my beliefs in a manner acceptable to my views/conviction, therefore she does NOT represent Jewish views. This is the capital danger of “conversions” being done in a manner NOT consistent with the rigours of Jewish demands. ANYONE who would be accepted within the Jewish faith WITHOUT the necessary process, within 5 minutes of a Bondi Beach cute little “do”, may claim at once that she/he speaks already on behalf of the Jewish religion WITHOUT qualifying which kind of “Jewish” faith, as distinctions expressed above.
    I, and all Jews of GOOD faith would wish all human beings happiness, love, a fulfilling life and also realistic assesments of ethical issues.
    ECAJ is, once again, going slightly beyond its authority and propper, due process of consulting and considering its functioning principles. What the ALP decides does NOT have to be the Jewish line and vice versa.

    Now, who is going to jump first and call me elegant names ?! Before doing that just remember, you passionate activists anxious to secrete hysteria, I said, and repeat, I do NOT hate yous guys and I detest homophobes !!

    • Alex says:

      Dear Otto,

      Rabbi Apple is a wonderful human being and widely respected in the wider Jewish community.

      However, please realise that for you to say the progressive view is not a Jewish view is really not very intelligent. Jewish views in our community come from all strands of Judaism and therefore there is no real ONE Jewish way but a chorus of views and opinions that make up our diveristy and culture.

      Jewsih community organisations that support the needy are actively donated to by members across all streams including some very large donations from the progressive community. I’m sure you or someone in your family has been touched in some way by the assistance of these organisations and your words therefore insult a big part of your fellow Jewish community.

      You sound like such a great guy with a beautiful heart…no need to denigrate your fellow Jews.

  12. ben says:

    Go for it.

  13. Emes says:

    It’s good that the ECAJ has refrained from taking a position on this issue. It represents all Jews and, understandably, the Orthodox and Reform perspective on this issue differ quite considerably.

    For an Orthodox perspective, read Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple’s recent posting on his website on the ALP decision:

    • The least one could expect of the ECAJ is that they demanded equal rights for all Australians. I don’t need to remind you of what happens when a society advantages some citizens with greater rights than other citizens.

  14. This is excellent news. It comes in addition to the support given for full civil marriage equality under Australian Law given by the Progressive Rabbinate. For details, see


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