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February 27, 2004 - Image 21

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Divisive Debate

Made possible by a generous gift from Bill and Audrey Farber

Sunday, February 29, 2004
10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Orthodox groups support Bush's marriage
amendment, but don't relish the fight

MATTHEW E. BERGER
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Boston

I

f President Bush hoped to galva-
nize American conservatives with
his proposed constitutional
amendment to ban gay marriage,
it has had the reverse effect among Jews.
Jewish liberals are raring for a fight,
while the more conservative streams are
less than enthusiastic. David Luchins, a
longtime vice president of the Orthodox
Union, said he believed his organization
would support the amendment but
would not be among its most vocal back-
ers.
"This is not a battle, this is not a fight
we're looking forward to or we're enjoy-
ing," Luchins said at the Jewish Council
for Public Affairs plenum in Boston,
where organizational officials were debat-
ing the issue Tuesday at the very hour of
Bush's announcement.
"If we are to prevent the meaning of
marriage from being changed forever, our
nation must enact a constitutional
amendment to protect marriage in
America," Bush said Tuesday, throwing
down the gauntlet to Congress and the
states to push the issue forward.
Liberal groups were outraged at what
they say is an encroachment on a docu-
ment many consider sacrosanct — the
U.S. Constitution. "It -raises the issue of
tampering with the Constitution, and
that is of significant concern to this com-
munity," said David Saperstein, the exec-
utive director of the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism.
Luchins faced tough questions from
the crowd in the conference room at the
gathering of the umbrella group for local
Community relations councils and
national organizations. In the audience
were gay-rights supporters and students
attending the Hillel Forum on Public
Policy, which took place simultaneously
with the JCPA forum.

Torah Dictum

Luchins said he believed the Orthodox
community should do its best not to be
"dragged into the pits of gay bashing and
demoralization" in a national debate on
the marriage amendment. "I will do
everything in my power to make it crys-
tal clear that the Torah teaches that every
human being is important," he said.

Related editorial: page 27

The Orthodox Union and Agudath.
Israel of America are not expected to
formally join the Alliance for Marriage,
a broad coalition of groups supporting
the amendment, because some members
of the board of advisers are linked to
anti-Israel and anti-Semitic organiza-
tions.
Abba Cohen, Washington director
and counsel of Agudath Israel of
America, which represents fervently
Orthodox Jews, said his organization
has supported the amendment for sever-
al years. He applauded Bush's
announcement.
The Orthodox Union is expected to
formally decide to back the amendment
within the next few weeks. Nathan
Diament, director of the O.U.'s
Institute for Public Affairs, said the
Orthodox had never sought a battle that
divides more than it unites.
"We feel this has been forced upon us
by the gay-rights activists, and they are
the ones bringing litigation and forcing
this issue upon the American people,"
said Diament, who turned down a last-
minute invitation to attend the White
House announcement because he was
attending the Boston plenum.
The Jewish Community Relations
Council of Greater Boston has come
out in support of the Massachusetts
court ruling supporting gay marriage
and, along with the local chapter of the
Anti-Defamation League, has actively
backed gay marriage. "We need to be
proactive and need to be setting this
forward as the pre-eminent civil rights
issue for the next century," said Nancy
Kaufman, the Boston JCRC director.
Kaufman said Jews could help make
the case by determining how the debate
is cast. "When you discuss it as a civil-
rights issue and not a religious issue,
people begin to see it."
JCPA did not formally debate gay
marriage at its resolution session
Monday evening, but the issue of rights
for gays did intrude into a resolution
supporting hate-crimes legislation and
citing sexual orientation.
The resolution's final language said:
"The inclusion of any group in hate-
crime laws need not be viewed as an
expression of support for that group,
but rather as a recognition of the reality
that certain segments of our society are
subject to significantly greater inci-
dences of hate crimes." 0

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