Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Supreme Court Decision on DOMA

A public display of homosexual behavior - Photo credit: Washington Post

I completely understand and even sympathize with those in the homosexual community who declared victory yesterday. The Supreme Court of the United States struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Taking us one step closer to the societal normalization of behavior that the Torah forbids.

There are two competing forces here.

One is the democratic force of fairness. It is indeed unfair to discriminate in any way against people who are different . This should apply to any differences that do not harm others. Same sex attractions (SSA) is one such difference. People with SSA who are consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want with each other in private without fear of sanctions or any other negative consequences.

The other competing force is the biblical prohibition against such behavior no matter how private… no matter whether there is mutual consent or not.

In a democracy that separates church from state, it makes sense to not allow biblical prohibitions to impede freedom to those who do not believe in the bible. So as much as my religion tells me that such behavior should not be sanctioned, I don’t blame the court for voting as it did – albeit in a split (5-4) decision.

What is interesting for me is the fact that the majority of Americans are basically a religious people.  Americans by and large believe in the bible… and yet they support homosexual marriage. I think their acceptance goes beyond the mere technical grounds of church state separation. I think they buy into the argument that there is nothing wrong with homosexual sex and that it should be accepted in the same way as heterosexual sex. 

That means that they actually reject a clear biblical teaching in favor of our evolving standards of morality. In America of 2013, if one leaves out the bible, Homosexual sex is just fine. What happens in the bedroom between 2 consenting adults is nobody’s business. In other words, the American sense of fair play over-rides biblical prohibtions

Why is that? I think it is because perceptions of homosexuals have changed drastically over the last 20 or 30 years. As late as the 1960s homosexuality was considered a psychological disorder. Homosexuals hid their sexuality and were even ashamed of it. The embarrassment of being discovered and the stigma attached  to them and their families was unbearable. 

But once the homosexuality was redefined as an alternative lifestyle and no longer considered a disorder, things began to slowly change. Celebrities came out of the closet.  Many of them are very nice people. They look and act normal and many of them are people of high moral character in ways not relating to their sexual attractions and behavior.

When people think of a gay person the image of comedienne Ellen Degeneres comes up. She is one of the nicest and kindest people in the entertainment industry. And she is as normal as could be in every perceivable way. No longer does one picture the flaming effeminate homosexual man. Hollywood has indeed contributed to the Ellen Degneres image in the dozens if not hundreds of TV shows and movies that featured homosexual people. They are portrayed as completely normal in every way that a heterosexual is. The TV series Will and Grace comes to mind. And the truth happens to be that homosexuals run the gamut of human behavior from good to bad, just like heterosexual people.

So - for example - when two homosexual men or women go before a camera and complain bitterly as to why society and the government so badly discriminates against them, the public understandably sympathizes with that. I can’t really say I blame them. I often feel the same way – for a moment. But then I remember that I am an observant Jew. And that no matter how good a person with SSA might otherwise be, there is no way I can consider an act of sex that (in the case of men) the Torah finds repugnant and forbids – the same as an act of sex that the Torah permits.

How do I reconcile my two conflicted feelings? I pretty much agree with the OU statement that reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday which in part reads:
(W)e reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. 
We are grateful that we live in a democratic society, in which all religions are free to express their opinions about social issues and to advocate vigorously for those opinions. The reason we opt to express our viewpoint in a public forum is because we believe that our Divine system of law not only dictates our beliefs and behaviors, but also represents a system of universal morality, and therefore can stake a claim in the national discourse. That morality, expressed in what has broadly been labeled Judeo-Christian ethics, has long had a place in American law and jurisprudence.
We also recognize that no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint. Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.
As tolerant and compassionate as I think we ought to be towards people with SSA, as a bible believing Jew, I am nevertheless opposed to equating forbidden behavior to permissible behavior. Which is the end goal of homosexual rights advocates. There is really no other position to take if one is an observant Jew and a proud American.