Jews Lobby On Same-Sex Marriage Legislation


The Jewish community has lobbied on both sides of the debate over proposed amendments to the Domestic Relations Law by the state Legislature. The bill is only one Senate vote away from passage.

Representatives of Orthodox organizations reached out in recent weeks to members of the Senate and Assembly, urging them to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage, while non-Orthodox groups took a stand in favor.

Agudath Israel of America distributed to legislators a packet of information that included a letter – co-signed by the Orthodox Union and four other organizations that represent the spectrum of the Orthodox community –advocating a vote against the legislation. Agudah also sent email alerts to its members and lobbied legislators and members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff in Albany.

Agudah advised legislators that a law permitting marriage between members of the same sex would pose “potential conflicts” with “religious liberty issues,” said Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, Agudah’s executive vice president. “The Jewish position is the position of the Torah” – a “clear prohibition of homosexual activities,” he said.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, senior spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, led a delegation to Albany this week lobbying for the amendments. Members of her synagogue had previously lobbied with members of the Legislature, in Albany and at their district offices, she said.

Beth Simchat Torah coordinated support for the legislation in the non-Orthodox community. “This legislation is about a civil marriage license,” Rabbi Kleinbaum said. “We all support civil rights – gay rights is the burning civil rights issue of our day.”

The Reform Jewish Voice of New York State, a project of Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action, has urged its members to lobby in favor of the amendments.

The Assembly passed the measure earlier this month; a close vote was expected this week in the Senate, whose term was to end on Thursday, but could be extended by Gov. Cuomo, a supporter of same-sex marriage.