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Conservative rabbis provide guidance on same-sex wedding ceremonies

Sunday, June 3, 2012
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The Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the Conservative branch of American Judaism which sets halachic policy, last week voted to provide guidelines on performing same-sex ceremonies, nearly six years after lifting a ban on ordaining gays and lesbians.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, said the guidelines will provide Jewish same-sex couples in the U.S. with the opportunity to turn to a Masorti (Conservative movement in Israel) rabbi, knowing they will be “armed and prepared with the appropriate liturgy and blessings for these commitment ceremonies.”

The CJLS approved the documents Thursday by a 13-0 vote with one abstaining ballot, reported the Associated Press.

“We acknowledge that these partnerships are distinct from those discussed in the Talmud as `according to the law of Moses and Israel,’ but we celebrate them with the same sense of holiness and joy as that expressed in heterosexual marriages,” the legal opinion states.

Called the “Covenant of Loving Partners,” the Conservative same-sex marriage document bases the ceremonies on Jewish partnership law. In the covenant, the couple pledges to be faithful. A ring ceremony binds the pair.

Created by Rabbis Daniel Nevins, Avram Reisner and Elliot Dorff, the ritual guidelines detail two types of gay weddings, as well as gay divorce, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

“Both versions are egalitarian,” said Nevins. “They differ mostly in style—one hews closely to the traditional wedding ceremony while the other departs from it.”

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who heads the LGBT Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York, told JTA that these new guidelines represent a major step forward in Conservative Judaism’s sensitivity toward the LGBT community.

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