Comment: As a Rabbi, I’m praying for common sense over the same-sex marriage bill debate

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, the co-chair of the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism says that he looks forward to being able to marry couples whether they are same-sex or opposite sex. He urges for common sense in the passing of the Marriage (Same-sex couples) Bill.

This past year, I have officiated at around a dozen weddings. Some were a chuppah – the wedding canopy under which two Jews are married. Under English Law, my Synagogue is registered to perform the Jewish, religious wedding and the Civil wedding as one. I have also performed a number of mixed faith blessings where I and my Synagogue are not permitted under English Law to act as the Civil Registrar. In these cases, the couple must be married in a Civil Ceremony by a local Registrar before I will ask God to bless their marriage.

The latter applied if I or my colleagues performed a Same-Sex Commitment Ceremony, even if it were for two Jews. The couple would have to have a Civil Partnership Ceremony before, in the presence of family, friends and their community I was able to ask God to bless a gay or lesbian couple’s union.

Most of the weddings that I officiated at were for those who had grown up as members of our community. I had taught them at our weekly Religion School. I had officiated – or been present – at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah when they were 13. I had connected with them as students or later as young adults. Some are my family and friends. There was and will remain through their and my lifetimes, a communal, spiritual and pastoral bond. My colleagues and I are entrusted by the laws of the land with the marriage – religious and civil – of two Jews when they are heterosexual and not when they are a lesbian or gay couple.

As we welcome the publication of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill this Friday, I pray for common sense. In Liberal Judaism, we have already made sense of our Scripture to assert the right of any couple in a loving, monogamous relationship to have their marriage sanctified by God, in the presence of those they love and who love them.

Now is the time for English Law to provide common sense to allow the freedom to perform weddings, religious and civil, to those religious organisations that seek the sanctity of marriage for all.

The proposals that will be in front of our Members of Parliament, are not forcing those who, in all good religious conscience reject marriage equality, to perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples. They will be protected in Law in such a strong way that they perhaps had not even conceived. It would be a travesty for those in Parliament who hold such convictions to obstruct permissive freedoms for others, for me and my colleagues who in equal good religious conscience, welcome marriage equality.

May common sense prevail so that those of religious sense towards marriage equality may opt-in and those whose religious sense opposes such a move are protected. It is common sense.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is the the co-chair of the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism