Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Time to divorce civil and religious marriage

DENNIS Golden (Write Back, May 23) highlighted an important point regarding gay marriage: "Before rushing through legislation allowing same-sex marriage, the inequality created by the introduction of same-sex civil partnership needs to be corrected and a formal definition of 'marriage' needs to be constructed."

I must declare my personal interest in that, as an Orthodox Jew, I cannot comment on the disputes concerning Christian theology.

Since many resort to Biblical support for their views, I think our approach may be helpful.

The classical Jewish position on homosexuality is that homosexual physical intercourse is prohibited as specified in Leviticus (18:22, 20:13), but 'being gay' per se, whatever that may mean, is in no way culpable in its absence.

In no way can we condone persecution of those solely because of such desires.

As far as I can see, the only way out of the current dispute is for the state to legislate for 'civil partnerships' only and eschew the word 'marriage', while recognising marriages within religious communities as qualifying as such. What the state chooses to call 'marriage' should be irrelevant to religious communities, so long as it does not force its definition on them. Perhaps the time has come for the 'divorce' of civil and religious marriage.

MARTIN D STERN

Salford, Greater Manchester

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