Jewish groups, Orthodox excepted, laud Obama on gay marriage


WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of Jewish groups praised President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, and an Orthodox group said it was "disappointed."

"History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America," the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center said in a statement Wednesday. "While the President has long publicly supported civil unions, these are distinct from full marriage rights."

The statement cited court precedents affirming marriage as a civil right.

"These rights are due no less to same-sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the President’s comments today acknowledge," it said.

Also praising the president’s endorsement made Wednesday in an interview with ABC were the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, the National Jewish Democratic Council and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The Orthodox Union, however, said it was "disappointed."

"While Judaism also teaches respect for others and condemns discrimination we, as Orthodox Jewish leaders, oppose any effort to change the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions," it said in a statement.

However, the OU statement also "appreciated" Obama’s support for laws that carefully protect institutions that dissent from same-sex marriage.

Agudath Israel of America, another Orthodox umbrella body, did not directly address Obama’s statement, noting that it was a "personal feeling."

Obama did not accompany his endorsement with any legislative initative, and he has said that the matter should be left up to the states.

However, Agudah blasted the National Jewish Democratic Council for describing Obama’s statement as advancing "tikkun olam," or the Jewish imperative to make the world a better place.

"To imply that a religious value like ‘tikkun olam’ — and by association, Judaism — is somehow implicated in a position like the one the president articulated, is outrageous, offensive and wrong," Agudah said. "We hereby state, clearly and without qualification, that the Torah forbids homosexual acts, and sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony."

NJDC Chair Marc Stanley referenced Obama’s "unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans."

"President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans," Stanley said. "I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition highlighted the OU and Agudah views on Twitter. Pressed by a Democratic activist on Tweeter, however, the RJC said it did not necessarily support the views, adding, "But we do acknowledge that Orthodox Jews and traditional Jewish views exist."

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