Rabbi Baruch Cohon

Rabbi Baruch Cohon



          Court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage were recently called an attack on religion.  Are they?  Are they something else?


          By Biblical standards, the very act of asking Divine blessing on a union described as an “abomination” would constitute sacrilege.  Yet some ordained clergy are doing exactly that.  Other ordained clergy are busy identifying themselves as sexual deviants, as documented in a recent front-page Forward story.  Clearly, public attitudes are changing.


          Something else is changing, too.  Something quite basic to human life as we know it.  That something is the structure of the family.  Statistical figures in the United States now show that some 30% of white babies and 70% of black babies are born out of wedlock.  Those children can expect to grow up in makeshift homes, cared for by single parents, foster parents, grandparents, orphanages – or nobody.  They will have no families. 


          What is a family anyway?  Only the basic unit of every human society we know, from tribal to industrial.   An individual is named for the family—Johnson, Mikhaelovitch, David ben Moshe, etc. Only a few societies on earth today grant their members only one name.  As defined in the Book of Genesis, a family starts when “a man will leave his father and his mother and will join himself to his wife and they will become one flesh.”  That process seems old-fashioned now, doesn’t it?  Maybe families themselves will become obsolete before long.  Then what happens to the civilization they built?


          After all the verdicts, after all the parades, where do we find ourselves?  Well, a few years ago when I saw this trend growing, I wrote a column about it.  You can find it on my website, under the title “Same Sex Marriage – Want to Talk about it?”  Since then, the trend only continued in the same direction.   


          Should we deny civil rights to sexual deviants?   Of course not.  All citizens should have equal rights, regardless of their private behavior, as long as that behavior stays within the law.  So in a secular nation, a law prohibiting homosexuality would be unconstitutional.  Similarly, you might argue, a law limiting marriage – and its economic costs to the state and benefits to the individuals – would also be unconstitutional.  Therefore a civil wedding that legally marries two people of the same sex should be acceptable.


          Maybe so.  What about the good old liberal ideal of separation of church and state?  If same-sex marriage is acceptable to the state and not to the religion, every rabbi, priest or minister should be free to choose whether or not to bless a same-sex union and call it marriage.  Essentially that is the condition we see now.  True, that condition could change.  Given the huge publicity this trend is getting, I would be looking out for that kind of change and striving to prevent it. 


            In the meantime, while acknowledging the rights of all citizens, let’s encourage our youth to establish families – real ones, like the ones some of them wish they had.

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