A Follow-Up to My Post on Gay Rights

The comments on my previous post on this subject make a number of useful points.  In the aggregate, however, they do not deal with what I am getting at, namely that the gay rights movement is different, both in its rapidity and its impact, than other major social movements that this country has experienced and that the consequences for religious Jewish life may be serious.  A number of comments refer to intermarriage and how Orthodox life has proceeded without being impeded by the avalanche of intermarriage experienced by American Jewry.  Apart from the not inconsequential matter that from a halachic standpoint homosexuality is a more serious violation than intermarriage, the reality is that the gay rights movement means to change not only how individuals may behave – that is people should be free to determine who they marry – it means to radically change how people deal with gay rights and SSM.

The point is made in Ross Douthat’s terrific piece in Monday’s NY Times.  Its title, “The Terms of Our Surrender,” is what I am getting at.  Douthat begins by recognizing that the battle against gay marriage is lost and then wonders what the terms of this surrender may be.  One scenario, apparently advocated by Andrew Sullivan, is that gay righters should be content with their victory and not seek to impose their will on those who oppose SSM.  The other camp is far more aggressive, so that as an example, a caterer or photographer would not be able to refuse his/her services at a gay marriage.

In this scenario, gay rights are placed in the same category as racial discrimination, so that there is no wiggle room – at least not legally – for those who want to assert their personal or religious preference.

The problem is that gay rights and civil rights ought not to be considered in the same breath.  The latter was always wrongful, irrespective of the reality that too many people were bigoted and, indeed, too many people remain bigoted.  Except for what apparently occurred in what may be regarded as ancient history, SSM has not been regarded as appropriate.  It has come as a whirlwind or perhaps better yet as a hurricane, demolishing all that is in its path.  If there is not a sense of restraint among gay righters, then the logic of their movement dictates that they can dictate what is appropriate/legal behavior for those who oppose SSM, irrespective of whether the opposition is predicated on religious or any other form of belief.

Flush with victory, the dominant instinct among gay righters today is to compel those who oppose SSM to yield and to be fully accommodatory to those who have married persons of the same sex.  It strikes me as inevitable that this will at some point cause difficulty for some Orthodox Jews, especially since our largest population base is New York and this is a state that is strongly in the SSM camp.  We need only reflect on what New York City’s so-called Human Rights Commission sought to do toward Williamsburg shopkeepers who asked customers to dress modestly.

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12 Responses

  1. kalman says:

    I’ll be honest, Rabbi Schick. I’m still not sure what you’re getting at. Yes, society accepts relationships that seriously violate halacha. So where do Orthodox Jews fit in? No one is suggesting that an Orthodox rabbi will be forced to perform a gay marriage. (The First Amendment still exists.) You are correct that establishments that offer their services to the general public (including kosher bakeries and frum wedding photographers) will not be able to refuse a customer because of the customer’s sexual orientation. But frankly, I doubt this will be much of a problem. First of all, I’m not aware of gay or lesbian couples looking in their local eruv list to find services for their weddings. Second, even if they did want an Orthodox Jew’s services for their wedding, would that be such a terrible thing? Does halacha really prohibit selling a wedding cake to two men or two women? Or taking pictures of an event? Third, an Orthodox Jew who objected to being involved could exercise his First Amendment right to free speech in a way that would strongly disincentive including him. For example, an Orthodox wedding photographer would be within his legal rights to wear a button saying “marriage = 1 man + 1 woman” while photographing a gay wedding. Only a gay couple desperate to prove a point would even want such a photographer at their wedding.

    Ultimately, gays and lesbians and Orthodox Jews will have to reach a sort of understanding. Our lives would be simpler if they weren’t gay, and their lives would be simpler if we weren’t Orthodox. In the past, the OU and Agudah have supported laws like Prop 8 and DOMA which discriminated against gays. Gays might entertain fantasies of discriminating against Orthodox Jews (and Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, evangelicals, etc.) in retaliation, but as mentioned above, it’s not clear how they would practically be able to do that. Realistically, neither side has the ability to make the other give up its essential identity. So we’ll have to coexist. I reiterate my earlier point that Orthodox Jews tolerating gays and lesbians shouldn’t be any harder than tolerating Hindus, who also arguably violate the sheva mitzvot b’nai Noach by worshiping multiple deities. And we don’t seem to have a deluge of Hindu couples asking frum photographers to photograph their weddings.

  2. yoni says:

    I just would like to remark that the sign on the Williamsburg’s store had written in Hebrew at the top, that only those dressed as mentioned below can enter, following by a list in English and Spanish. It was not asking, but telling if you don’t dress up like this, you don’t come in.
    Would you agree that a Christian had the right to refuse to serve an orthodox Jew based on his belief? If i understand you correctly, you think that a religious person has the right to refuse a member of the lgbt community for religious reason, isn’t it?

  3. Reb Yid says:

    Historically–and certainly in America–it is not a coincidence that Jews (including Haredim and Hasidim) have thrived the most in places that have been more accepting and hospitable towards a variety of cultures. New York has been that way towards Jews from its very origins, even when it was New Amsterdam.

  4. Tal Benschar says:

    It was not asking, but telling if you don’t dress up like this, you don’t come in.

    As do all dress codes.

    Would you agree that a Christian had the right to refuse to serve an orthodox Jew based on his belief? If i understand you correctly, you think that a religious person has the right to refuse a member of the lgbt community for religious reason, isn’t it?

    Dr. Schick can speak for himself, but where I would draw the line is not requiring a person, even in business, to engage in an act which includes approval or endorsement of or participation in sinful activities.

    To illustrate, a baker should be required to sell a prune danish to anyone, because a prune danish has nothing to do with that person’s sinful lifestyle. OTOH, a baker should not be required to create a wedding cake for a wedding which he or she considers sinful. (That need not be SSM. Could be an intermarriage, for example.)

    That would mean that generally a business could not refuse to do business with someone merely because he is a Jew, but could refuse, for example, to do photography for a bris or bar mitzvah, if they have some kind of objection to that. (In the case of a bris, it need not even be religious, could be a (misplaced) moral objection to circumcision.)

    Unfortunately, Dr. Schick is correct that the LGBT community is determined to force everyone to approve their way of life. It will not be long before a shul catering hall will be forced to rent out its space to a SSM event. (glatt kosher, of course.)

  5. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:


    Apparently you think that it is the BELIEF of the alleged offendees in that case that they must dress immodestly. Is that what you are saying? Otherwise how can you follow up with this “right to refuse to serve an orthodox Jew based on his belief”

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Plenty of non-Jewish establishments won’t let people in who fail to meet some minimal, posted dress code.

  7. Raymond says:

    In the rush to expand the Civil Rights movement to more and more groups of people, what has been lost sight of, is that there is all the difference in the world between how one is born, and behavior. That is, to discriminate against people for how they are born, such as their skin color, is indeed wrong, because nobody has control over how they were born. What people DO have control over, is how they behave, and there is all the reason in the world to distinguish between positive and negative behaviors. And so for example, if I am going to be against a particular racial group because they commit far more violence than their sheer numbers should indicate, that does not make me a racist, because I am judging behavior, not skin color.

    Same thing with homosexuality. The Torah is very careful to not condemn people for being gay. It does, however, come down very hard on those who engage in male homosexual behavior. Thus the question as to whether one is born gay or not, is simply irrelevant in Torah law, and should also be irrelevant in our secular law. But the moment a person behaves in a gay manner, then I should have the moral right to oppose it, as it violates Torah law, which is my standard for what is morally right and wrong.

    That gay couple who demanded that that bakery bake their wedding cake, were actively looking for trouble. They could have easily gone to just about any other bakery to bake that cake. Instead, they deliberately sought out the bakery they knew were run by a couple with Biblical values, because if there is one thing that the Political Left just cannot tolerate, it is people with Biblical values. The future of our country is in great peril.

  8. Tal Benschar says:

    I should add to my above post that objections need not be limited to approval of or participation in “sinful” activities. Anything objectionable. As I said, a photographer who objects to photographing a bris on the grounds that he objects to circumcision would qualify, even if those objections are based on secular morality.

  9. yoni says:

    Rabbi Schick says ” the so called human right commission” hinting that the case against those storeowners was based on other reason than human rughts,maybe does it mean
    antisemitism. The NYc law permit a dress code if it’s not against race, religion or gender. In this case, women saw this pointing toward them and get offended by it. No antisemitism. By the way we can also argue about the jacket and tie in a restaurant which goes against a gender:men. A more point was the first part of the sign is in Hebrew, if it was designed for the non jewish people. I have an opinion but i will keep quiet.
    Second of all, some people assume that the LGBT community made a choice of life, meaning for example that a gay person could be heterosexual but decided to be gay. This assumption shows an ignorance of the reality.
    I could intoduce you to some young, nice jewish Orthodox boys and gorls who are members of this community. Go, talk to them. They will tell about the hell they went through. So who will choose Hell instead of Heaven.
    Third of all, where do we draw the line? If i follow you Tal, where is the limit because a secular moral is objective. Is there an halachic position about it? If a gay couple goes to the restaurant, would the owner had the right to not serve them, as the law in Missouri would imply? I know members of the LGBT, who are kind, compassionate people who have no interest of forcing anything on anyone, just asking for the right to live their life as they choose with respect and decency. I’m conscious that we can find find amongst them individus with an agenda, but isn’t the case also by the orthodox community.

  10. just askin says:

    I am generally confused about why the frum community is so intent on putting in so much political capital (political capital that could be used elsewhere) on a debate that given current trends they are likely to lose.

    1)Why not attack rampant avoda zarah in the southeast asian communities
    2)Aver min a hachai in those areas that eat “rocky mountain oysters”
    3)arayos in the Appalachians?
    4)Gezel on the computers of young adults across the country

    Do we refuse service to people who aren’t shomrei shabbos? who don’t keep kashrush, or Taharas Hamishpacha?

    Why is this the hill that we are ready to die for…

  11. lamomma says:

    yoni – as for nice Jewish boys and girls who consider themselves to be LGBT: physical attraction is a spectrum, not always either/or; we have many impulses that we don’t act on because we know they are not good for us; and while we cannot tell others what to do in private, but we can choose what we celebrate. I am old enough to remember when two single men, or two girls, sharing an apartment was considered more respectable than living alone. Why would we want to know what goes on behind closed doors?

    I really, really don’t want my grandchildren to see same-sex pairs identifying themselves as a married couple. But I am afraid that that ship has sailed. We need to recognize, and in some terms explain, that what the state calls marriage is about property, tax, and inheritance rights, very different from what we define as marriage. There have been frum? couples who chose not to get a state marriage license, either because they didn’t feel they needed it, or to maximize benefits like social security.

    As for a non-discrimination law, isn’t there a difference between providing goods and services?
    A bakery can bake a cake for any occasion, just decline to decorate with an objectionable image. (I’ve seen a swastika given as an example, think also of a bachelor party with some ‘party girl’) Bride and groom decorations come in pairs, let the bakery offer to sell a second pair and the couple could set it up themselves. How many Jewish bands or photographers have been asked to accommodate a non-Jewish wedding?

  12. tzippi says:

    just askin, I’m not sure why you don’t think this is a relevant issue. It’s a very relevant issue, one we’ve long needed a vocabulary and direction for.
    Civil unions was a suggested solution in a comment on the other thread. Could it work? Hasn’t it been tried? And if it were to be tried again, would be enough for the gay community at this point?

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