The Reform rabbinate has begun developing a list of members willing to perform same-sex marriages after its leaders decided to shelve plans to vote on a resolution sanctioning rabbinic officiation of such unions.
In a letter to colleagues, Rabbi Richard Levy, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, said the leadership was “convinced that there is a very large group in the middle on this issue who are not ready to vote. … A vote on the issue will benefit no side: a close vote, whether opposed to or in favor of the right of officiation will hardly send a welcoming message either to our colleagues who favor officiation or to gay and lesbian lay people who seek religious support of their unions.”
Rabbi Levy said a report on the issue prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee on Jewish Sexual Values would be presented without a vote and that those who had proposed a counter resolution had agreed to withdraw it.
“Please don’t submit resolutions on this subject in Anaheim,” Rabbi Levy wrote, referring to the June 21 CCAR convention in California.
Rabbi Jerome Davidson of Great Neck, a member of the ad hoc committee and a strong supporter of officiation of same-sex marriages, said he disagreed with the leaders’ assessment.
“I believe there is enormous support among the rabbis for officiating at same-gender ceremonies,” he said. “There may not be agreement about the nature of the ceremony, but our movement is largely ready to say we believe permanent monogamous couples deserve religious sanctification of their relationships. I believe that many many rabbis believe these relationships are worthy of sanctification.”
Rabbi Davidson said that although he would not bring up the matter, he would have “no objections” if another colleague did.
“I think it should be voted on or even tabled because it would be a step in understanding where we are as a movement,” he said. “I know of no plans to bring it up and I have great disappointment it won’t be.”
But Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, spiritual leader of the Community Synagogue in Port Washington, L.I., and an opponent of such officiation, said the issue would be discussed at the convention “in an endeavor to raise people’s consciousness about what is going on. What we’re going to have is a statement affirming the pluralism of views in the movement. There are many voices on this issue and they need to be heard and respected. A significant number of rabbis are pleased for a variety of reasons that this will not come up for a resolution.”
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and a supporter of officiation, said he believed it was a “wise decision” not to hold a vote on the issue.
“The leadership of the conference recognized there was no consensus on this and that it would be foolish to proceed in the absence of it,” he said. “This is an issue that needs more time and deliberation. I believe the leadership is right about the absence of a consensus and there needs to be a clearly articulated position rooted in tradition.”