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Conservative rabbis approve same-sex marriage ceremony guidelines

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards — which sets halachic policy for the Conservative movement — has voted to provide guidelines on performing same-sex marriages. 

The move is an official sanction of the ceremonies by the movement.

The CJLS approved the documents Thursday by a 13-0 vote with one abstaining ballot. For years, the Conservative movement has debated how to approach same-sex unions. Traditionalists often opposed such relationships while urging respect as progressives — particularly some rabbinical students — pushed for full equality.

In 2006, the CJLS officially sanctioned gay relationships. At the time, it stressed that rabbis were not obligated to perform such ceremonies, but could do so and not be violating RA standards.

Rabbis Daniel Nevins, Avram Reisner and Elliot Dorff created the new ritual guidelines. They offer two types of gay weddings, as well as gay divorce.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who heads the LGBT Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, told JTA that these new guidelines represent a major step forward in Conservative Judaism’s sensitivity toward the LGBT community. 

“We can’t be held hostage to the radical right wing of the Jewish world,” said Kleinbaum, who was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. “The Conservative movement is rejecting religion based on bigotry.”

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