The Conservative Movement votes YES to Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce Ceremonies.
For the past two days I was privileged to sit in on the proceedings of the CJLS – the Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards of the Conservative Movement at JTS. Many important and interesting issues were on the table but the main issue for me – and many others – was the passing of the responsum on same-sex weddings – offering a template and model for these sacred unions. I sat in on a similar meeting back in November, when the draft was sent back for more extensive work. Yesterday and today some important points were debated – but with a vote of 13 yes and one abstaining – the responsa passed!
It was a dry, legalistic moment with but little smiles, a matter of business almost – and the meeting was adjourned immediately after. But I had tears in my eyes, the only gay man sitting in that room full of rabbis who were directly dealing with MY life and hopefully future ceremony – or at least the ones I’ll be leading…. ‘No trumpets!’ I said to one other student sitting next to me in the back of the room. “Pretend” he told me. And I did. And it was beautiful, like the joyful noise right after the groom breaks the glass.
Here are some notes from the meeting – just briefs and lots more to discuss and articulate.
1. The models proposed in this responsum were composed by the same rabbis who composed the 2006 responsum that oped the door for LGBT ordination. What is being offered here are suggestions for liturgy and structure for same sex weddings, as well as a suggestion for dissolution of such weddings. This is NOT a conclusive text or ritual – leaving room for other versions, modified liturgies, etc. This is great because there is definitely more that can be done here and there will always be individual choices and needs. I am excited to work on some new versions soon…
2. Some of the interesting contentions include the use of the liturgical forms of “the garden of eden” in the seven blessings. In the traditional version these poetic allusions are in heterosexual context – Adam and Eve, etc. Should these be used in same-sex weddings as well. I think yes. The Eden myth is about human origins, and about the pain of loneliness. The text does not have to be read as about male and female – but rather about masculine and feminine, and about our mythic human origins. Not everyone thinks so – my dear friend R. Steve Greenberg, for instance, has a whole other alternative cosmology. This new model chose to include this original language.
3. What is this wedding called – in JEWISH? It is not kiddushin – but is it Nisuin? It is a brit – covenant? Is is a Shutfot – partnership? And how does this get reflected in the actual ceremony and rituals? The short answer is that is it a BRIT – Covenant and PARTNERSHIP – Shutfot – but in English it is a marriage – and a wedding. More about that and the significance of the nuance in some later doc… (kinyan, etc.)
4. The vow taken between the couple with the exchange of rings in the present version is ‘Be me my partner in love and peace, in the eyes of God and Humanity’. (rough translation) – should it include the expression as in heterosexual weddings – ‘according to the laws of Moses and Israel’ or at least – in the eyes of God, People and Israel? ” TBD…
Bottom line – good news. progress day by day, the rest is details.