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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
US rabbis approve gay partnership

Rabbis belonging to the biggest and most liberal branch of Judaism in the United States have voted to recognise the partnerships of gay and lesbian couples.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, which is part of the Jewish Reform movement, has agreed to sanction religious ceremonies for same-sex couples.

The President of the Conference, Rabbi Charles Kroloff, said that gay and lesbian people deserved the recognition and respect due to people created in the image of God.

The BBC New York correspondent says the vote means that the Reform Rabbis have gone further than any other religious movement in the United States in advancing the rights of homosexual people.

Divisions

But it is feared that the decision could also widen divisions between different branches of the Jewish faith.

Judaism is already deeply divided between orthodox and reformists and between conservatives and liberals.


rabbi
Rabbi Denise L. Eger from West Hollywood's Reform Synagogue backed the decision
With all other branches of the faith fundamentally opposed to the notion of gay relationships, some Jews fear that the resolution will do much more harm than good to the reform branch of Judaism.

The vote is also provoking acute anxiety among some American Jews, with many fearing this will drive them even further from Jews in Israel.

Affirmation

According to the BBC New York correspondent, the decision spells out the principle that homosexual relationships between Jewish people are worthy of affirmation.

Until now gay Jewish couples wanting to marry had to find individual rabbis who were prepared to go out on a limb and preside over a ceremony without the approval of their movement.

For more than a decade, reform rabbis across the United States have led same-sex ceremonies at their synagogues with varying degrees of formality, ranging from simple blessings of a gay Jewish home to ceremonies almost identical to conventional weddings.

In 1990, the movement agreed to ordain openly gay rabbis, endorsing the view that "all Jews are religiously equal regardless of sexual orientation".

To acknowledge the range of rabbis' opinions about same-sex unions, movement leaders stressed that each rabbi could decide what he or she considered "appropriate Jewish ritual," and called for developing a wide range of sample ceremonies.

They also made clear that the resolution does not suggest such ceremonies are marriages and does not explicitly encourage rabbis to perform them.

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07 Mar 00 | Americas
California rejects gay marriage
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