Saturday, June 06, 2009

New letter in the Jewish Press on gay marriage

A new letter in the Jewish Press. This one is on gay marriage and a response to an article by Rabbi Yair Hoffman. You can find a link to Hoffman's original article below. I am also including Rabbi Hoffman's response to me, which appears directly after my letter.

My letter may also be found here:

Rabbi Hoffman's original article may be found here:

Discredited Arguments

Rabbi Hoffman offers several tired and discredited arguments against the legalization of same-sex marriage.
In his overheated language, "undermining an institution that has been designed by history and Natural Law to vouchsafe the future of mankind can be compared to unleashing chemical and nuclear hazards with the potential to undermine mankind's future."
He gives no facts to support this claim. There is no evidence that allowing gay couples to marry keeps straight couples from doing so. There is no evidence that children of gay couples are worse off than children of straight couples. Little if any evidence exists that children raised by gay parents are more or less likely to be gay. There is no evidence that people are having fewer children because of gay people.
There is, however, evidence that many children who today have no home might have one if gay couples could adopt them and evidence that gay couples who want children use the avenues of adoption, in-vitro fertilization, and surrogacy to have them.
Hoffman argues that legalization of gay marriage will lead to legalization of incest and bestiality. Suffice to say, Hoffman presents no evidence of a constituency advocating for either one.
It is true that having a mother and father is optimal. But using this argument against gay marriage is itself dangerous. In the first place, little evidence exists to show that children raised by gay couples do not develop normally. In the second place, prejudging the suitable environment for a child based on "normal psychosocial development" suggests that the government should be quick to interfere in all circumstances that are less than optimal.
Why shouldn't the government remove children from a home where the parents are unemployed or poor, since studies show that rich children do better in school than poor children? Why should single parenthood or divorce be legal? Should one's personal beliefs be examined before one is permitted to reproduce?
Yes, as Hoffman points out, we certainly give homeowners a tax break based on the belief that home ownership brings more social stability than a "transient lifestyle." We also have a tax credit for those who have children. But we have not outlawed the renting of apartments, and we have not forced childless parents to divorce.
Finally, Hoffman reveals his true purpose: "[R]edefining the parameters of marriage amounts to a subtle and insidious attempt to undermine the beliefs and principles of those who uphold the sanctity of Natural Law. It is an insult to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and practitioners of other religions in this country."
Legalizing gay marriage places no restriction on my ability to be a heterosexual or my ability to reproduce. Neither does it prejudice anyone's ability to argue that heterosexual marriage is superior. If anything, it strengthens the institution of marriage, which has been eroded by high divorce rates, the frenetic, self-destructive pace of modern life, and the narcissism that pervades our society these days.
As a member of a religious minority, I believe legislating personal religious viewpoints can only hurt us and our open society. Our fight against Islamic extremism is in part a fight against that kind of thinking, where so-called religious insult serves as justification for curtailing civil liberties and in extreme cases, organized violence.

Rabbi Hoffman should relax. Legalization of gay marriage is not going change things, and humankind will be just fine.

Michael Brenner

Woodmere, NY
Rabbi Hoffman Responds: I would like to thank Rabbi Shapiro and Mr. Brenner for reading and responding. This is an issue that must be taken seriously.
Mr. Brenner describes the arguments offered against redefining marriage as "tired and discredited."
To reiterate the first argument: There is such a thing as Natural Law, which is why the founding fathers established this country as one nation under God. This is neither tired nor discredited. It is not overheated to say that redefining marriage undermines this institution - the fact that the nuclear family has all but disappeared in entire neighborhoods has contributed to a deterioration of society in terms of education and crime. This too is neither tired nor discredited.
As for my second argument - "the slippery slope" where other marriages will become legalized - is Mr. Brenner really saying there is no constituency for multiple wives? There are tens of thousands of people in this country who have multiple wives and they do want to legalize it. From schismatic Mormons to certain Islamic groups, there are strong voices that wish to legalize second and third wives.
On the third argument - that having a mother and father is optimal for psychosocial reasons and that it is in the state's interest to preserve the traditional definition - it would seem the statistics comparing children from no-fault divorce states to states with no such laws prove the point. No amount of dressing up and role-playing will replace the essential fact that a child needs a mommy and a daddy.
It's interesting that Mr. Brenner claims my true purpose is revealed in argument number four. My main point actually lies in the first argument. The Midrash tells us that no society ever went so far as to redefine marriage. My op-ed merely pointed out that the motivation behind the movement to redefine marriage is, quite likely, to "stick it" to those religions that consider the practice of homosexuality an abomination.
Further, no one is advocating a justification for "curtailing civil liberties." Let us not fool ourselves. There are no civil liberties being argued for in this legislation. What is being argued for is the right to hijack terms and institutions.

Like Mr. Brenner, I believe legislating personal religious viewpoints can only hurt us and our open society. But Natural Law has historically been and still is at the very heart of our society. And there is a higher moral power that has defined the institution of marriage. We live in a free country, and we all value those freedoms. But let us not make the mistake of confusing freedom with the wanton hijacking of terminologies.


At 12:49 AM, Blogger 第二回合 said...


At 3:24 PM, Anonymous bathsheba@israel said...

then more i live in israel then more i realise that to belive in G-d and to liten to rabbi is not the same. its proved that some people are gays and its natural. nothing to do with it. rabbies also doen not allow to visit toilet with the phone-there are herbrew in phones in israel, but as its saint language you cant bring mobile with you to the bathroom. sorry it does not look very smart to me

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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