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Gay rights and Religion


Recently I’ve read a couple of articles on being religious and homosexual, as well as discussing the subject.

Mostly it has been related to the discussion on the subject in Denmark, where the new minister of the church has proposed himself as a frontier soldier for the rights of the gay community to be married in the church (in Denmark the state and the church is still connected), but some of the articles and discussions have also been related to Judaism and acknowledging homosexuals, see for example Los Pumbedita’s post on the subject.

Anyway, some have asked me how I feel about it, and though my opinions are pretty clear when it comes to Halachah (Jewish religious law), that is – I stick to Halachah, then I’m also aware that we are dealing with human beings, who are going through something most of us couldn’t imagine. Of course, some places it’s easier than other to come out or living as a homosexual, though I’m still not aware of any place where it isn’t presenting some challenges.

Regarding Halachah, I still haven’t seen anything that remotely opens up for gay marriages, and I have been spending some time looking into it. I certainly don’t agree with Reform Jews in their approach, going outside the boundaries of Halachah, in order to change Halachah, so it conforms with their thoughts on how Halachah is supposed to be, because then we’re basically left with something that is solely based on what we feel and think would be right, and not Halachah. It would be something else.

That aside, within Halachah, the ethical aspect of the law, though I do find that homosexuality – the act – are not allowed, I’m still obliged to love the person. I have a great respect for a person, who by staying true to what he/she is, still dare to stand out and being honest by it. And honest, when I look around in our societies today, people who are living in openly homosexual relations are far from the “worst” (I find it hard to describe homosexuals as bad people, it’s not their personality we’re dealing with, it’s a natural urge) people I see. There are things that are far worse than living as a homosexual, such as slander, encouraging hatred, gambling with other people’s money and so on. Seriously, I would think that those things are much graver than any homosexual act to be ignored. What homosexuals choose to do in their private lives, have no interest for others, that is totally between the two (or more) of them, but people spreading slander, encouraging hatred and so on, are not just dealing with their own lives, they are hurting and damaging the lives of others. I’m even finding it hard to make this comparison, since a gay person isn’t even a bad person, but one who is struggling, succumbing, living with, whatever you choose to call it, his/her inclinations. People who are spreading slander, encouraging hate, and so on, are people who destroy.

And honestly, if we look at ourselves don’t we have flaws that we should correct, before we begin to look for flaws in others?

Another aspect is the aspect of being a citizen in a secular society. I saw an interview with Ricky Martin, where he stated something true, that as a citizen in the US, who pay taxes, why is he not entitled to the same rights, as anybody else? I differ strongly between Halachah and the laws of a secular society. I basically don’t know of any country which is ruled by Halachah, not even Israel, which might implement Halachah in parts of its secular law, but is far from being ruled by Halachah. Actually the specific law in Israel is termed as Mishpat ‘Ivrit, “Hebrew Law”, which not being something completely remote, then still different enough from Halachah to not being the same. Halachah is based on Torah and the Sages’, Z”L, interpretation of the Torah, Mishpat ‘Ivrit is based on part Israeli jurisdiction, Ottoman and British law, as well as Halachah. Halachah is Divinely inspired, Mishpat ‘Ivrit is rationalized and compiled by various groups of law.

In a secular society, even Israel, the law of the land is law, and though I certainly encourage a role of Halachah in Israel, I think it should be up to the single individual whether he/she will succumb to Halachah, and to how great an extent it should be covering his/her life. And I will leave out the discussion on who should define the Halachah for another time.

In a secular society any citizen should have equal rights, within the boundaries of reason, and two mature individuals should be allowed to build their lives together if they so wish, whether man/woman, man/man, or woman/woman.

Basically this post is not so much about promoting/defending homosexual’s rights, as it is a post for any individual’s rights in a secular society. If we only allow equality to those we agree or sympathize with, then we’re not talking about equality at all. We have to establish some basic understandings of the rights for all citizens, if we want to create societies not defined by a distinct group, but rather defined as a society for all its citizens. If we want to live in democratic secular societies, then we need to live up to the demands of such societies, and if we want to encourage others to accept Halachah (or any other religious body of laws), then we – as individuals – should live up to the demands of it ourselves before we demand that others succumbs to it.

All the best.

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