The ordination of gay rabbis and the sanctioning of same-sex marriage within Conservative Judaism is near certain, according to movement leaders who spoke at a meeting in New York on Thursday night.
Organized by the movement’s congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the gathering offered a preview of the halachic opinions on homosexuality that are likely to be approved at a December meeting of the movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. The purpose of the Thursday gathering, said the United Synagogue’s executive vice president, Rabbi Jerome Epstein, was to help congregations begin to prepare for the “day after” the rulings are handed down.
In December, the law committee “might accept — will accept, I think — two or more of the papers [currently under consideration]: one that affirms the current state of affairs, and one, at least, that liberalizes it,” Epstein told the audience. The movement has room enough for congregations differing in their treatment of homosexuality, he said, adding that, even if the movement adopts a more liberal position, individual communities will have final say over what course to pursue.
For several years, the law committee has been actively reconsidering its 1992 consensus statement on homosexuality, which upheld a ban on gay marriage and ordination. This past March, four opinions — two on each side of the issue — were submitted to the committee for review, and the final vote was scheduled for December.
The panelists in New York on Thursday included Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of Los Angeles’s University of Judaism and co-author of an opinion that allows for gay marriage and ordination, and Rabbi Joel Roth, a professor at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, who has submitted a opinion — largely a restatement of his approved 1992 opinion — that would uphold the ban on homosexuality. Throughout the evening, the speakers repeatedly expressed certainty that both opinions would pass.
Dorff’s opinion would permit gay ordination and marriage, as well as some homosexual acts, while maintaining a ban on anal sex.
“I think it’s a foregone conclusion” that there will be two decisions passed, Roth told the Forward after the event. “The only question is whether there will be two or three passed,” he added in reference to another liberal decision, co-authored by Rabbi Gordon Tucker of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y., that would lift all restrictions on homosexual behavior.