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Monday, April 03, 2006
Homosexualism wins more approval from the Conservative Judaism movement's rabbis
Mon., April 03, 2006 Nisan 5, 5766
"Conservative rabbis lower threshold on gay policy
By Forward Staff
MEXICO CITY - In a move that could make it easier to permit gay rabbis and same-sex unions, members of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly voted March 22 to lower the threshold for approving major revisions to rabbinic and even biblical law.
The motion, which passed 106 to 37 with 24 abstentions, allows the Conservative movement's top lawmaking body, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, to approve major revisions to rabbinic law with the approval of 13 out of 25 voting members. It overturns the decision by the R.A.'s executive council last June to establish a 20-vote threshold for major changes.
The procedural issue had become the subject of great debate among Conservative rabbis after the law committee met earlier this month to reconsider the movement's stance on homosexuality. The committee voted to designate the most liberal opinion then under consideration as a revision of Jewish canon law, or takanah, rather than as an interpretive opinion, or teshuvah, which only requires six votes for approval. Following the law committee's recent meeting, some movement rabbis criticized the R.A.'s executive council for approving a significant rule change in the middle of the movement's reevaluation of homosexuality and for failing to communicate about the change.
The March 22 vote, which took place during the R.A.'s convention, came in response to a motion from the floor introduced by Rabbi Eli Spitz, senior ra bbi at Congregation B'nai Israel in Tustin, California.
Earlier in the meeting, R.A. members voted to table a resolution, sponsored by Rabbi Barry Leff of Congregation B'nai Israel in Toledo, Ohio, that would have struck down the 20-vote threshold and all other law committee voting procedures adopted by the executive council. Leff's resolution also would have explicitly required the executive council to submit any new voting procedures to the R.A. membership for approval. If Leff's motion had passed, opinions voted on at the December 2006 meeting of the Law Committee would likely have only needed six votes to be approved.
Spitz's motion was seen as a compromise. Rabbi Reuven Hammer, a former president of the R.A. who now lives in Israel, first raised the suggestion for the 13-vote threshold. While he was R.A. president, Hammer asked the law committee to revisit gay marriage and ordination, which had been forbidden by the Law Committee's 1992 consensus statement.
At the Mexico City parley, a second motion, which addressed how the law committee designates opinions as takanot, was referred back to the executive council because the plenary session ran out of time. That motion would have stipulated that if the author of a legal opinion labels his decision a teshuvah rather than a takanah, that designation may be overruled by a two-thirds vote of the law committee. The law committee itself had recommended that the author of a legal opinion retain sole authority over its designation.
At the law committee meeting earlier this month, the most liberal opinion was designated as a takanah over the objection of its authors, but with a simple majority.
By arrangement with the Forward"
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