Friday, August 21, 2009

Homosexual Parenting

Is it halachicly permissible for homosexual couples to have and raise children? Is it a good idea?

The answer to both those questions is probably yes - under certain conditions. It may not be the ideal situation psychologically, but it is probably better than being raised in an orphanage or in foster care. I think the primary concern is that the child be raised in a halachic and moral environment. Of equal importance is a loving and nurturing environment. The latter can be determined with a psychological evaluation. That would probaly be a good idea for any parent gay or straight.

But is gay parenting indeed halachic? Let us look at the issues.

I have dealt with homosexual issues many times. The one thing that is clear is that penetrative sex which is the most common expression of homosexual love is severely forbidden by the Torah. It is considered a capital offence punishable by death if caught by two kosher witnesses who have properly warned the participants. In the days of the Sanhedrin a mandatory death sentence would have been imposed.

But as I have said many times being gay is not in and of itself any more of a sin than being straight is a mitzvah. Sexual preferences are not what is forbidden or permitted. It is how one deals with them that is at issue.

Halacha dictates the following. Any person who gets married to a member of the opposite sex and follows the laws of family purity is permitted – even mandated - to express physical love with his or her life partner. A gay person may not express penetrative physical love with his or her life partner. That means being celibate - for the most part.

The question has arisen in recent years about religious homosexuals. There are many gay people who are just as shomer shabbos as straight people are and are just as committed to mitzvah observance as any other Orthodox Jew. They are completely moral and normal in all their behavior. But they are attracted to members of the same sex.

How do we deal with them?

The same way we deal with heterosexuals. We treat them as human beings and interact with them the same as anyone else.

One might ask what if they succumb to a taavah and act on it in a ‘capitally offensive’ way?

That is between them and God. Who among us hasn’t been tempted and succumbed to one forbidden desire or another? Whether major or minor none of us are perfect in our halachic observance. That’s why we have a concept of Teshuva. The point is - knowing the difference between what is right and wrong and striving to do what’s right. This is no different for homosexuals then it is for heterosexuals.

So the idea of homosexual couples having their own child should not really be a problem – whether by natural means or by adoption. The question then arises: How? By what process do they achieve it? In the case of male homosexuals - do they get married to a woman just for procreative purposes even while living with a male partner? What about artificial insemination? Is that an option? Adoption?

I do not see a problem with any of these options halachicly. Psychologically the marriage option might be a bad choice. But if everyone is up front about who - and what - they really are and the marriage is only for procreative purposes it may not be so bad. As long as there are no unrealistic expectations of family life and both the man and woman go in with their eyes wide open - it may (and I emphasize ‘may’) work. But I am certainly no expert on these issues. Not halachicly or psychologically.

The next question is what kind of family life will the child of a gay couple have? What if ‘Heather has two daddies’?

At this point I would posit that female homosexual couples might not have as great a stigma as do male homosexual couples. Nor do they have the same halachic problems. So if ‘Heather has two mommies’ it may envisage a better outcome. I’m not sure of the psychological reasons for the stigmatic differences. But the halachic problems are clearly much bigger for men than for women.

In any case, on a psychological level - will a child in such an arrangement have a normal upbringing? Will his personality development be normal? Will the almost certain taunting by friends have a significantly negative impact on the child?

I’m not so sure about the positive outcome of this kind of family structure. I guess I would need to hear from children who have been raised that way – and from their parents, teachers, and peers.

On a halachic level though - I do not believe there is any real problem. And I don’t think the major Poskim have one either. How do I know? I don’t. But if an article in is accurate then they may have already said that gay parenting is permissible.


A revolutionary halachic ruling that will allow religious homosexual men to marry women and have children with them is currently being discussed at one of the most prestigious Orthodox institutes in Israel.

Rabbi Menachem Burstein is founder and head of the PUAH Institute, recognised in Orthodox circles as the leading organisation on matters of fertility and Jewish law. He confirmed this week that he has “been dealing with this subject for quite some time”.

According to Rabbi Burstein, the initiative came from a number of individuals and groups of religious homosexuals who requested a halachic solution that would enable them to have children.

The ruling currently being discussed in the institute envisages a homosexual marrying a woman who is fully aware that her prospective husband is not physically attracted to women and retains a relationship with another man.

“There is nothing wrong with two men having a close relationship without intimate relations and we should not penalise people who are not attracted to members of the other sex,” says Rabbi Burstein. “Having homosexual tendencies is in itself not a sin. Giving in to them is.”

While it is identified with the national-religious community in Israel, PUAH also receives halachic guidance from many of the senior Charedi rabbis, including Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Ovadia Yossef. Rabbi Burstein consulted with both on the homosexual issue.

Rabbi Ron Yossef, who leads Hod, a support group for religious homosexuals, says that such marriages already exist.

Wow! Who said Charedi Poskim aren’t open minded?