Jewish Groups Back Obama on Gay Marriage

Most Praise President for Statement; Orthodox Still Opposed

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published May 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish leaders praised President Barack Obama’s statement that he personally supports gay marriage.

Barack Obama
getty images
Barack Obama

“I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality,” said National Jewish Democratic Council chair Marc R. Stanley in an emailed statement. “President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans.”

For some Jews, the reaction to Obama’s statement was deeply personal.

“Tonight for the first time I’m going to be able to go home to my six month old son and tell him that the president of the United states, Our president, thinks that we’re a family,” said Alan van Capelle, chief executive officer of Bend the Arc. Van Capelle, who is gay, the former executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.

Read Forward columnist Jay Michaelson’s Three Reasons Why Obama’s Right on Gay Marriage.

The president told ABC News that he supports gay marriage in a May 9 interview.

“Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples,” the president told ABC, referring to his teenage daughters. “[I]t wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

The interview signals a reversal in the president’s public position on gay marriage, though he told ABC news that he continues to believe that the issue should be handled by individual states.

The statement comes after a week of signs that the Obama administration’s position on gay marriage was in flux. Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan each professed support for gay marriage in recent days.

A poll released in April by the Public Religion Research Institute. found that 81% of Jews support gay marriage.

Some Jewish politicians were quick to applaud the president’s announcement.

“This is a major turning point in the history of American civil rights,” New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement released moments after the content of the ABC interview was made public. “ The march of freedom that has sustained our country since the Revolution of 1776 continues, and no matter what setbacks may occur in a given state, freedom will triumph over fear and equality will prevail over exclusion.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, a congressman representing a heavily Jewish district in New York City that includes the Upper West Side, also cheered the announcement. “For the first time in this nation’s history, a sitting president has shown the courage and leadership to stand up for all American families by pledging to support the fundamental right of every person to marry the person they love, and to have that marriage fully respected,” Nadler said in a statement.

Others were more cautiously optimistic. Idit Klein, executive director of the Jewish gay rights group Keshet, noted that various state level efforts against gay marriage have had success in recent days, including a ballot initiative that passed on May 8 in North Carolina.

“This is an incredibly tempestuous and despairing time, and a powerfully positive and uplifting time for all of us that care about LGBT equality,” Klein told the Forward.

The leading ultra-Orthodox umbrella group, meanwhile, reasserted its opposition to gay marriage.

“The Torah forbids homosexual acts, and sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony,” wrote Agudath Israel spokesman Avi Shafran in an email to the Forward. “The Orthodox Jewish constituency represented by Agudath Israel of America, as well as countless other Jews who respect the Jewish religious tradition remain staunch in their opposition to redefining marriage.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.