Orthodox Look at Gay Nups Proposal
The Jewish Daily Forward - By Rebecca Spence - Published March 18, 2009, issue of March 27, 2009.
LOS ANGELES - As the cultural divide over gay marriage deepens, two public intellectuals on opposite sides of the debate are floating a new proposal that could bridge the gap between religious conservatives - including Orthodox Jewish groups - and advocates for same-sex marriage.
The compromise, proposed by Jonathan Rauch and David Blankenhorn, would grant federal civil union status to state-sanctioned gay marriages and civil unions, but it would link that new status to guarantees of religious liberty. Rauch and Blankenhorn first laid out this formulation in a New York Times opinion piece and then discussed it at a robust but largely civil March 13 forum at the Brookings Institution.
Some religious groups - among them, the Orthodox Union, America’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella group - fear that the drumbeat toward same-sex unions could compromise their religious liberties and leave them vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. At the same time, proponents of gay unions contend that to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry is to compromise their civil rights. Tensions have flared most recently around Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay-marriage initiative that is now being weighed by the state’s Supreme Court and prompted nationwide protests when it passed last fall. Enter Rauch, a pro-gay-marriage journalist and Brookings guest scholar, and Blankenhorn, the anti-gay-marriage president of the Institute for American Values.
“In the wake of Prop. 8, I started getting more worried about the rising temperature of this issue, and I’d also become more conscious of the hardship of not having any federal recognition for same-sex couples,” said Rauch, who is both Jewish and gay, in an interview with the Forward. “Finally, I had become more and more aware of religious groups’ genuine alarm that gay marriage would be forced on them.”