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Reconstructionist Movement Endorses Civil Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

February 24, 2010

IN SUPPORT OF CIVIL MARRIAGE FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA)

The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (JRF)

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC)

April 2004 / Nisan 5764

Background

In 1984, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College became the first Jewish seminary to endorse the ordination of gay and lesbian rabbis, when it adopted a policy of non-discrimination in admissions on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (then the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations and Havurot, [FRCH]) adopted a resolution in 1985 welcoming congregations that primarily serve gay and lesbian Jews.

At its 1990 convention, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association recommended that the Reconstructionist movement establish a non-discrimination policy in rabbinic placement. The following year, a movement-wide policy was enacted prohibiting discrimination in the referral of resumes of candidates for positions within congregations.

The RRA has, from its founding,, automatically welcomed all graduates of the RRC to membership; in 1991, the RRA adopted a formal  policy of non-discrimination in membership.

In 1993 both the RRA and FRCH adopted the findings and recommendations of the Reconstructionist Commission on Homosexuality. Those conclusions called for the welcoming of gay men and lesbians as full members of our communities, and supported rabbis who worked with and officiated at rituals and rites of passage for gay and lesbian Jews and same-sex couples, including wedding ceremonies.

Since that time, as encouraged by the Commission’s report, a number of JRF congregations have engaged in a process of study and deliberation that has led to the congregation’s formally being recognized as a “Kehillah Mekabelet,” a community committed to welcoming gay and lesbian Jews.

The RRA Rabbi’s Manual, published in 1997, was the first rabbinic liturgy to include a sanctification ceremony (Berit Ahavah) for same-sex couples.

The Reconstructionist movement has been at the forefront of efforts to include and integrate gay and lesbian Jews into all aspects of Jewish communal and religious life. The Reconstructionist movement now wants to go on record as being in support of full and equal civil marriage for gay men and lesbians in the United States and Canada.

In Support of Civil Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

We deem it imperative that progressive religious voices be raised in support of the equality that is currently denied to gay men and lesbians, and in opposition to attempts to present religious traditions in general, and Jewish tradition in particular, as being uniformly opposed to equality for gay men and lesbians. Jewish teachings of tzedek (righteousness), mishpat (justice) and kevod habriot (the dignity of all human beings) are the sacred inheritance of all Jews, and inspire us to strive for a fully inclusive understanding of the teaching  that humanity is created b’tzelem elohim, as an embodiment of Godliness.

Today same-sex couples face opposition to the right to civil marriage and are regularly denied access to the benefits automatically bestowed by civil marriage including, among others, health care coverage and related decision-making, privileges under immigration and naturalization law, inheritance rights, survivor benefits and child custody. Legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships will provide these men and women and their families with these benefits, as well as providing them the respect they are currently denied.

The Reconstructionist movement has a twenty-year history of advocating the inclusion and equality of gay men and lesbians in Jewish life. In that spirit, the Reconstructionist movement now endorses and supports the right of same-sex couples to share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitments of civil marriage. We support legislation and legal action that will secure civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Civil marriage for same-sex couples must include all the benefits commonly bestowed upon opposite-sex couples, including, among other rights, healthcare coverage and related decision-making, privileges under immigration and naturalization law, survivor benefits, inheritance rights, and child custody. We oppose all efforts to ban civil marriage for gay men and lesbian women.

The JRF extends benefits to the same-sex partners of its staff members and employees, and we encourage JRF congregations and havurot to do the same. RRA rabbis should encourage the congregations, agencies, organizations and other institutions where they serve to extend benefits to same-sex partners of staff members and employees as well. Reconstructionist communities should provide educational and advocacy programs on the issue of civil marriage for same-sex couples.  We encourage Reconstructionist Jews to contribute letters to the editor, opinion columns and other public statements in support of civil marriage for gay and lesbian people.