The Modern Orthodox Jew and Gay Marriage

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by R. Gil Student

This article will appear in the next issue of The Jewish Link

Modern Orthodox Jews are rightly confounded in finding the correct response to the recent Supreme Court decision affirming gay marriage as a constitutional right. The political fight is now over and all that is left is our reaction. How do we, as individuals, see this historic moment? I believe that, ultimately, this boils down to a fundamental issue of attitudes that threatens lives, families and the future of the Jewish community.

There are, however, reasons to rejoice at the decision. From one perspective, this is a victory for a previously marginalized minority. As a minority in every country in the world, Orthodox Jews sympathize with this newfound constitutional protection. From another perspective, we applaud this limit imposed on government’s involvement in family matters. We do not want government bureaucrats telling us how to live our lives. From yet another perspective, that of friends and family of gay people who struggle to find happiness, we lovingly share in their moment of joy. But there is one more perspective we proudly carry, that of the Torah.

Continued here: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. Important point on “happiness” as the overarching objective in many peoples’ minds.
    2 issues I’d like to see more on-1.given the Torah’s viewpoint on the marriage issue even for non bnai brit, how much would we try to influence the public debate given that it is this same freedom that protects our ability conduct our lives as orthodox jews.
    2.from a halachic viewpoint, why are we less accepting of this than of Sabbath deniers (My take is related to a meta nkudat habichira approach)

  2. I agree with the first response above.

    I would also add: I just don’t see the threat. The entire case is about civil marriage and whether the state will recognize it, grant benefits, etc. It doesn’t effect Jewish marriages at all (or modify halachah, etc.)

    It’s not like prevention of those civil gay marriages would reduce illicit relations.

  3. I am inclined to frame it differently, although I am not actually in disagreement.

    We live in a society where technology’s success puts science in the limelight. (As per The Lonely Man of Faith.) And so scientific method becomes the vanguard of finding truth. Truth is thus seen as something limited to things that can be demonstrated to/by others on demand, experimentally.

    Symptomatically, notice how the word “fact” means a number of things that should be different: the truth; an empirical, physical truth; the evidence of that physical truth.

    Issues outside the realm of science, such as morality and ethics, therefore are not matters of fact, but of opinion. If I cannot demonstrate it experimentally to others, it lacks an objective reality.

    And in such a world, Adam I cannot define a moral code without Adam II. The only rule left is to allow each person to pursue their own goals. The sole moral code is to maximize autonomy, to applaud people doing what they want as long as it doesn’t stop others from doing the same.

    You can call that the pursuit of happiness. But in truth, “pursuit of happiness” is a tautology — happiness is the emotion associated with having success pursuing one’s goal.

    The problem we have is that the religious right, which still holds on to the concept of an absolute moral terrain that our own moral opinions try to map, doesn’t share with us a common picture of what that morality actually contains.

    So we not only are happy when America takes a step away from “Tyranny of the Majority” for ideological and moral reasons, we have a vested interest — we are a minority that needs such protection.

    Which leaves me feeling very ambivalent.

  4. Dear Reb Gil,
    I follow your website a lot and usually am in general agreement with your writings. But I was shocked to read some of your article about the legalization of “gay marriage” and some of the positive?! I understand, that the majority of your article you conclude with a torah perspective. But you start with the following sentence”Modern Orthodox Jews are rightly confounded in finding the correct response to the recent Supreme Court decision affirming gay marriage as a constitutional right”
    I could not disagree more. Modern orthodox jews should not be confounded, confused or perplexed. They should be outraged! There is nothing redeeming about the highest court in the land undermining basic family structure. The RCA and Aguda’s response was one of outrage and dissapointment. Rabbi Carmy, that you linked to, said we should do teshuva. Reb Gil, there is nothing positive in this! Lovingly share in their moment of glory?!

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