GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA (March 29, 2000) --North America's Reform Rabbis passed a resolution today under which the Reform rabbinate officially supports the decision of individual rabbis to officiate, or not officiate, at Jewish same-gender ceremonies. The vote--with an overwhelming majority voting in the affirmative--occurred here at the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the representative organization of North America's approximately 1,800 Reform rabbis, the largest group of Jewish clergy.

Adoption of the resolution, which required a majority vote of the body of the CCAR, marks the first time that a major group of North American clergy, as an organization, gives its blessing to those in its ranks who choose to perform same-gender ceremonies.

The resolution also calls for the Reform rabbinate to develop sample ceremonies, or liturgy, for those rabbis who choose to officiate at same-gender ceremonies. In addition, the resolution states that relationships of two Jewish people of the same gender are worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual.

The resolution leaves it up to the individual rabbi to decide whether she or he chooses to officiate at Jewish same-gender ceremonies, and thus does not explicitly encourage individual rabbis to perform such ceremonies. [The resolution does not suggest that the ceremonies are "marriagcs"; it is up to the individual rabbi to decide, within the context of faith, as opposed to civil law, what each ceremony represents.]

The Resolution on Same-Gender Officiation was originally developed and proposed by the Women's Rabbinic Network (WRN) of the CCAR. The WRN is comprised of 275 women rabbis who are CCAR members.

Said Rabbi Paul Menitoff, professional head of the CCAR, "This resolution supports giving affirmation to gays and lesbians and the relationships they form through appropriate Jewish ritual. It is groundbreaking in that it is the first time a major religious body has indicated its support for any of its clergy who decide to officiate at same-gender ceremonies."

Said Rabbi Charles A. Kroloff, president of the CCAR, "I applaud CCAR's membership for passing the resolution. It demonstrates CCAR's continuing religious leadership by reaffirmiag that gay and lesbian Jews. and the committed relationships they form with their partners, deserve the recognition and respect due to people created in the image of God."

Rabbi Shira Stem, co-president of the WRN, said, "The passage of this resolution has broad-reaching implications. This is as much a civil rights issue as it is a religious issue and we believe that passing this resolution does a great deal towards strengthening Jewish families by recognizing the sacred relationship between two Jews--whether they be homosexual or heterosexual."

The Resolution on Same-Gender Officiation is as follows:

Over the years, the Central Conference of American Rabbis has adopted a number of positions on the rights of homosexuals, on homosexuality in the rabbinate, and advocating changes in civil law pertaining to same-gender relationships.

In 1977, the CCAR adopted a resolution calling for legislation decriminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults, and calling for an end to discrimination against them. The resolution called on Reform Jewish organizations to develop programs to implement this stand.

In 1990, the CCAR endorsed the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Homosexuality and the Rabbinate. This position paper urged that "all rabbis, regardless of sexual orientation, be accorded the opportunity to fulfill the sacred vocation that they have chosen." The committee endorsed the view that "all Jews are religiously equal regardless of their sexual orientation." The committee expressed its agreement with changes in the admissions policies of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which stated that the "sexual orientation of an applicant [be considered] only within the context of a candidate's overall suitability for the rabbinate," and reaffirmed that all rabbinic graduates of the HUC-JIR would be admitted into CCAR membership upon application. The report described differing views within the committee as to the nature of kiddushin,[Jewish marriage] and deferred the matter of rabbinic officiation.

A 1996 resolution resolved that the CCAR "support the right of gay and lesbian couples to share fully and equally in the rights of civil marriage," and voiced opposition to governmental efforts to ban gay and lesbian marriages.

In addition to these resolutions, two CCAR committees have addressed the question of same-gender officiation. The CCAR Committee on Responsa addressed the question of whether homosexual relationships can qualify as kiddushin (which it defined as "Jewish marriage"). By a committee majority of 7 to 2, the committee concluded that "homosexual relationships, however exclusive and committed they may be, do not fit within this legal category; they cannot be called kiddushin. We do not understand Jewish marriage apart from the concept of kiddushin. The committee acknowledged its lack of consensus on this question.

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