Culture, Identity, Justice, Mishegas, Politics, Religion, Sex & Gender

Prop 8 overturned, OU gets irrational

Around the country, yesterday, many cheered and many booed as Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker declared Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, as unconstitutional and in contradiction of the due process clause.
While a seeming majority of US Jews are clearly supportive of overturning the ballot proposition, known in many circles in California as “Prop H8,” the Orthodox Union made this bizarre statement, according to the JTA:

“In addition to our religious values — which we do not seek to impose on anyone — we fear legal recognition of same-sex ‘marriage’ poses a grave threat to the fundamental civil right of religious freedom.
“Forcing a choice between faith and the law benefits no one,” it added, concluding that the OU looked forward to the appeals process.

In what world does the OU live? Apparently one where they will be forced by US law to officiate at same-sex marriages? Yes, that’s right, here in America practices and beliefs are forced upon religious organizations all the time. That’s why every synagogue has to have a nativity scene or a giant set of Ten Commandment plaques…
The full statement, which can be read here, goes on to say:

Already, in states with same-sex civil unions and similar laws, religious institutions, including churches, social service providers and youth groups have been penalized by authorities for their beliefs. Forcing a choice between faith and the law benefits no one.
We look forward to the appeals process which will bring these critical issues to America’s highest courts.

Oh! Now I get it! They are against being told what to do or believe because it impedes the religious freedoms of a sliver of a tiny minority population in the US (which I really don’t understand how their freedoms are impeded at all)… What they are NOT against is taking away the constitutional rights of at least 10% of the US population who have been relegated to second-class citizen status and forced to stand by as the sacred institution of marriage is maintained for adulterers and wife-beaters… Good ol’ fashioned sense and reasoning from the OU.

21 thoughts on “Prop 8 overturned, OU gets irrational

  1. Some of them believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Some of them also believe the world is literally 6000 years old. Of course there are a lot of Orthodox Jews who quietly express more modern views. Those making this weird statement are entitled to their quaint beliefs as long as they do so without imposing their religious fundamentalism on the rest of us. And they should also realize they speak for only a tiny fraction of Jews.

  2. I notice consistency in using freedom of religion as an attack against accepting gays by the OU. Their spokesperson used the same rationalle regarding Lynn Schuterman’s proposed philanthropists’ pledge against gay discrimination.

  3. KJF, yeah it’s a consistent trope not just with the OU, but with other Orthodox opponents of gay marriage. It occasionally comes up with Christians, but not nearly as much. It’s particularly strange. I can usually understand, though without liking, the arguments against gay marriage, but I can’t get my head around this one. It is legal for Jews to marry goyim, but that doesn’t mean rabbis are required to perform such marriages if they don’t wish to.

  4. You can make overturn all the laws you want. Once the non-reproducing seculars/liberals are extinct the religious will simply change it back.

  5. I just came back from reading the comments to the post “Zionism vs the Hearts of Children”. I came to the conclusion that people on this site have a very strange idea of democracy. The best description I can think of is, dictatorship by progressives.

  6. Let’s see now.
    ‘at least 10% of the US population” is gay/lesbian, whereas the Orthodox are a ‘sliver’ of the Jewish population.
    Don’t think so.

  7. 10% of the US population far exceeds that of whatever the fraction of the 2% of the US population that is Jewish which is also Orthodox. Do the math.

  8. To help you guys out with the context here: the legal concerns the OU & similar organizations have are related to what non-discrimination laws require of religious groups who feel it’s against their religious beliefs to provide certain marital benefits to LGBT employees, have LGBT members, or to engage in some other religious discrimination regarding LGBT individuals.
    These are real legal issues, separate and apart from the moral considerations involved in discussing the broad issues of LGBT inclusion.

  9. This discussion reminds me: anybody know where to get some solid numbers on U.S. Jewish demographics by movement, region, etc.? I know there’s a lot of overlap, so Venn diagrams might be a better bet than pie charts, but there must be somebody that compiles these things. (Though it’s not gonna be in the 2010 Census, of course.)
    I’m just not sure that there’s any validity in the argument that a legally recognized right to marriage bars the OU or any group from discriminating on religious grounds against anyone whom they deem to be insufficiently pious. If you’re flaunting public violations of halakhah or the minhagim of your community, you can be asked to leave. I’ve never experienced it personally, but I have heard stories. A legal recognition of a person’s right to do X, Y, or Z is not tantamount to forcing religious acceptance of those things. A couple weeks ago, a court decision recognized the legal right for kids to “sag” (i.e., wear their pants low enough to expose some of their underwear). Where was the Orthodox outrage over this obvious judiciary imposition on religious freedom? Clearly this is just one step toward the government-sanctioned elimination of tzniut, right?

  10. ok DAMW, you want numbers?
    let’s see here. according to the US Census Bureau, the total population in the US is 307,006,550. For argument’s sake let’s call it an even 300 million. 10% of 300 million is 30,000,000. There are at least 30 million homosexuals, statistically speaking, in the United States.
    In the United States, there are an estimated 7,000,000 Jews. Out of those 7 million, only a fraction, less than 50%, affiliate themselves as “observant” (whatever they mean by that) For argument’s sake, let’s call it 50% (just for fun) Out of that 3.5 million observant American Jews, Wikipedia cites the 2003 Harris Poll which found that 22% of Jews who belong to a synagogue belong to an Orthodox synagogue (that does NOT mean all of those people are Orthodox, it means they pay dues to an Orthodox synagogue).
    So, let’s recap. 10% of the US population is 30 million. The Orthodox population is somewhere around 22% of 3.5 million. If my math is correct (and I am horrible at math, so it may not be) that should equal 770,000.
    Again, if my math is correct, 30 million should be slightly larger than 770,000… Not to mention that statistically speaking, there should be around 77,000 gay/lesbian Orthodox Jews…

  11. @Justin, you forgot about selection bias: most people who are gay or lesbian in the O world are probably going to leave it. Some won’t, of course, they stay and be closeted, or struggle with not being interested in the assigned sexual partner, and do their best, so through affairs or prostitutes on the side, some by remaining unmarried and some in other ways.
    Those communities should be pleased that there’s somewhere for those who don’t fit in to go to.

  12. My criticisms (read my comment) were the use of ‘sliver’ as a description of the percentage that the Orthodox are of the Jewish popultation, and the use of ‘at least 10%’ as the overall percentage of gays.
    With 11% Othdodox I’m glad we can dispense with the ‘sliver’ nonsense.
    As to the ‘at least 10%’ nonsense,just check
    Even using a population that included 25% serving and ex prison inmates plus 5% male prostitutes, Kinsey could only get to 11.6% of males.
    And no one else has come close to replicating this figure.

  13. okay… so you have a problem with the world sliver. what word would you prefer to describe 770,000 out of 7,000,000? And you have a problem with the 10%, I was going by what I have understood to be the general statistic for the rate of homosexuality world wide, which I did not know was not accurate. And I’m confused, a) why a report from 1948 matters, and b) why you’d send me to a report that says “The study also reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55″ (in the 5 to 6 range).[9]” I also do not trust surveys on a question which has been so loaded in our society for so long.
    Irrelevant really. it’s clear that your need is to express just how large the Orthodox community in America is and how it’s much more important than respecting human beings who simply want to legally contract their properties, inheritances and vows to one another. Why not take the marriage rights away of other people, too? let’s start with adulterers, wife beaters and sex offenders to name some that might be worthy of being banned from marrying…

  14. Leaving aside the pilpul about numbers, the key issue is how the OU/RCA/Chabad/etc. relate to social issues and government roles, as compared to how the liberal movements do. Whether it’s a chanukiah on the public square or taking money from the government for enhanced security, their guiding principle seems to be WIIFM, where the RAC/URJ/AJCs/etc. are more likely to invoke separation of church and state and place universalistic values ahead of particularistic interests.
    Whether we’re talking about same-sex marriage, or birth control, or abortion rights, any religious group has a right to preach to its followers what they should and should not do and what their clergy will and will not do — but they have no right to foist their religious beliefs on secular society.

  15. David – If you look back through OU & Agudath Israel protestations regarding laws in New York for non-discrimination, civil unions & recognition of gay marriages from other states, you’ll see what I’m discussing.
    Basically, non-discrimination laws and increased civil union/marriage opportunities for LGBT individuals can create situations in which religious organizations couldn’t deny membership or employment due to an individual’s sexual orientation, where they normally would have before certain laws or regulations were in place. A further concern for these organizations is potential denial of government funding for social services programs in a similar vein, as well.
    Put into a plain-English example, a curriculum-drafting rabbi at NCSY who’d come out of the closet would unquestionably be fired if the OU operated in a legal vacuum. The likelihood of that being illegal grows with each instance of either non-discrimination laws expanding to include LGBT individuals, or LGBT rights being furthered.
    That’s the most direct example. More indirect examples could include Orthodox groups not wanting to take part in “furthering” an LGBT marriage by providing spousal benefits, or to provide social services like housing to an LGBT couple.
    I discussed some of this in my article for Slate on gay inclusion in Orthodoxy (, as concerned Yeshiva University’s history in the 1990s, specifically.
    But these issues go back to the days of the Koch administration, when he was passing non-discrimination laws over the protests of clergy of most types.

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