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Gay Marriage Measure
Comes Under Debate
ast week's overwhelming
passage of the Defense of
Marriage Act in the House
produced a variety of reac-
tions in a Jewish community that
is divided on the morality of ho-
The Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism, the Washington
outpost of the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, criticized
the House action and asked the
Senate to reject the law, which
would allow states to refuse to rec-
ognize same-sex marriages legit-
imized in other states.
The marriage measure, which
is being promoted heavily by
groups such as the Christian
,Coalition, is "unconstitutional, un-
necessary and morally wrong,"
said Rabbi David Saperstein, di-
rector of the RAC. 'This will sure-
ly turn out to be about gay
Agudath Israel of America,
which submitted Senate testimo-
ny last week supporting the leg-
islation, insisted that the
movement to allow same-sex mar-
riages is "extremely dangerous"
for American society.
"Proponents of same-sex mar-
riages seek to change not only
statutory law, but also the very
nature of a social institution that
... has proven its worth as an
agent of social stability and his-
torical continuity," said David
Zwiebel, Agudah's director of gov-
ernment affairs. Gay-rights
groups and a number of Jewish
organizations are tacitly conced-
ing that the bill is now unstop-
pable; the Senate is prepared to
Measure is morally wrong.
act quickly, and President Bill
Clinton has indicated he probably
would not exercise his veto.
Instead, these groups hope to
add the Employment Nondis-
crimination Act, which prohibits
discrimination in employment on
the basis of sexual orientation, to
the legislation. The American '-
Jewish Committee has spear-
headed a group of 10 religious
groups urging legislators to do just
But gay and lesbian activists
privately agree that political fac-
tors will make that proposal an
extraordinarily hard sell.
`The feeling is that the Defense
of Marriage Act is going to go
through no matter what," said a
leading Jewish activist here. 'The
strategy is to see if we can attach
something positive to this terrible
piece of legislation. But frankly,
it's going to be .a very difficult
he flap about the banning of
American Jewish Commit-
tee director David Harris
from Russia apparently is
far from over.
Last month, Mr. Harris, who
organized the massive 1987
March for Soviet Jewry in Wash-
ington, was denied a visa to visit
Russia to attend a conference in
Recently, Rep. Gary Ackerman,
D-N.Y., shot off a letter to the
reclusive Russian President Boris
Yeltsin criticizing his govern-
"This action taken by itself is
troubling," Mr. Ackerman wrote.
"However, it coincides with your
government's recent decision to
suspend the Jewish Agency's le-
gal right to operate in Russia, as
well as your silence on widely re-
ported inflammatory comments
by Gen. Alexander Lebed per-
taining to religion in Russia."
All of that, Mr. Ackerman said,
"presents a less-than-pleasant pic-
ture of the official government at-
titude toward Jews, in particular,
and of the policy toward religious
tolerance, in general."
Mr. Ackerman got some high-
powered co-signers to his letter, c'\
including Rep. Ben Gilman, R-
N.Y., chair of the House Interna-
tional Relations Committee, Rep.
Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., and Rep.
Dan Burton, R-Ind.
Mr. Harris' exclusion also
came up in the debate over re-
newal of the Lautenberg amend-
ment, the law originally passed
to make it easier for Jews in the
former Soviet Union to win